“Competition is a rude yet effective motivation.”

Yes it is! Both a rude and an effective way of motivating me, competition is…

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I’m going to beat the girls AND the boys, nyahhhhh!

Ironically, or maybe NOT ironically, the quotation was written by someone called Toba Beta, in Master of Stupidity. So, how stupid is it to enter contests? (And here, I’m talking about screenplay writing contests in particular).

To answer my own question, I think it depends on how seriously you take them and what your expectations are.

If you think that either winning or NOT winning a competition is much of a reflection on the quality of your work, then you’re sadly deluded. If you believe that the standard of a lot of judging and the reviews you receive from them is going to be constructive and help you to reshape your work into something eminently… better… than the piece you submitted, then you’re probably going to be disappointed. I say probably – I’m just going on my own experience here.

I’m not referring here to the top banana contests like PAGE International and the Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship – just most of the rest – and there are zillions of them. Zillions.

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I used to enter loads of contests and have to admit I used to get bent out of shape by them sometimes – anxiously waiting for the results, feeling that I was useless if I didn’t do well, railing at the unfairness of some of them – and that wasn’t just sour grapes, before you even think it. Sometimes, it may have been, but often it was not. I’ve been in contests where the most APPALLINGLY badly written, poorly spelled, incorrectly formatted, crass pieces of work have progressed when others (not even mine) which are aeons ahead in every way haven’t made it past the first round.

Judging is always subjective. It can’t be anything else. And mass judging of a competition where there are hundreds of entries, it has been my experience, is often carried out by…I don’t know, interns, students, children?… who wouldn’t necessarily recognise a good screenplay if it bit them on the bum.

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My review for Round 2 of a recent contest submission referred to characters who didn’t even appear in my screenplay…however, they liked it enough to put me through to the next round. Ha ha ha…

I’ve just received the review for my entry into the semi-finals of the same contest.  This piece of work didn’t get me through to the finals. I had to write a comedy and what I did was a spoof of The Killing. Yes, risky, because would it work as a comedy if you hadn’t seen The Killing? Apparently it did, because I tried it out on several people who assured me it could stand alone because they thought it was ‘hysterically funny’ even though they’d never seen the aforementioned TV series.

The reviewer/judge plainly hadn’t either because the review made no mention of the (clever?) references – but hey…

The whole screenplay and its humour was built around the idiocy of the male detective. The reviewer completely missed the plot. He/she wrote:  “I think he needs to show some sort of competency otherwise his presence at a crime scene feels a bit jarring…”

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THAT WAS THE WHOLE POINT. IT WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN FUNNY IF HE WAS COMPETENT. (Excuse me for shouting…)

I DO realise, by the way, that it’s what someone reads rather than what I wrote that is the most salient thing…if I didn’t write it well enough for the reader to understand the plot and the subtext, then it’s largely down to me. But that somewhat rests on the reader possessing a certain level of critical acumen, too. I received stellar reviews for the first two screenplays, which didn’t merit it, in my opinion!

Do I now think that the screenplay was poor?

No, I don’t. I’m proud of it.

Do I think it was a waste of time entering this competition?

No I don’t. It motivated me to write three new screenplays. I had fun doing them. It got me back into this form of writing, which I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

Do I think that the feedback was valuable?

NO I DON’T!

Will I enter other contests?

Yes. In fact, I’m in the quarter finals of a feature length competition. The great thing was, I had completely forgotten I’d entered…the best and most healthy way to be.

This is me:

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