Submissions close at midnight, Tuesday 31st October.
One entry per person. Submissions under 15 seconds will be accepted, however, submissions over 15 seconds will be ineligible. Opening titles are included in your runtime, but closing credits are not included.
With a monster, $ 117 million opening weekend Warner Bros. and New Line’s It has delivered a record-breaking opening, breathing a little life back into the slumping domestic box office. The film has claimed the largest September opening, largest Fall opening, the largest opening for an R-rated horror film, not to mention the largest opening weekend for a horror film of any MPAA rating, and tops Open Road’s new release Home Again in second place by nearly $ 110 million. Overall, the film acco… Box Office Mojo – Top Stories
Reading and assessing 10 screenplays in 5 days drove home some points.
Recently I served on a panelfor the Independent Filmmaker Project Minnesota Screenwriting Residency competition. They announced the winner yesterday:
March 21, 2017, St. Paul — Independent Filmmaker Project Minnesota, a St. Paul-based media arts center, has announced the winner of the IFP Minnesota Screenwriting Residency, an annual competition for Minnesota screenwriters. Matthew Dressel, of Duluth, MN, has won the $ 10,000 residency out of a field of 56 applicants. His screenplay, THE OTHER MAN, is a taut thriller: a weekend in the country turns deadly when an inebriated hunter accidentally shoots a passing motorist and discovers a man bound-and-gagged in his trunk. The St. Paul-based residency is funded by the Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge with matching funds by IFP Minnesota, as an annual competition through 2018.
THE OTHER MAN was selected by a national panel consisting of key influencers in the film industry: Los Angeles-based script consultant and story editor, Ruth Atkinson, who is also a story analyst for the Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Screenwriting and Directing Labs; Film Independent Spirit Award Nominee Angela C. Lee (SONGS MY BROTHER TAUGHT ME), who is also the Senior Manager of Artist Development at Film Independent; and veteran film and TV writer Scott Myers (K9, ALASKA, TROJAN WAR), who also hosts Go Into the Story, the official screenwriting blog of the influential Black List.
“This is a great opportunity for all 10 finalists,” said IFP MN’s Executive Director, AndrewPeterson. “As a result of the Residency competition, last year’s winner, Andy Froemke, secured industry representation and several finalists were championed by last year’s national panel for additional opportunities.” Peterson added, “This year’s panel was excited about THE OTHER MAN, feeling it would play well with both critics and audiences.”
Angela, Ruth, and I read the 10 finalist scripts on our own (each was an anonymous submission, we knew nothing about any of the writers), then did a teleconference in which we discussed the relative merits of all the screenplays. It was an interesting challenge because we were tasked with selecting the “most promising screenplay”.
So we talked about Voice. Concept. Characters. Plot. Dialogue. Execution. Commercial Viability. Professional Readiness. And a host of other qualities.
In the end, our consensus choice was The Other Man, written by Matthew Dressel:
Originally from West Michigan, Matthew Dressel moved to Duluth after spending six years out in Southern California working at a film advertising company.
Matthew has written and directed short films that have gone on to screen and win awards at festivals across the country.
His first feature length screenplay, the dark comedy Killing Daniel, is in development with Toronto-based Darius Films. Matthew also has two screenplays optioned by producer Don Schmeichel.
I learned a few things from this experience. For example, there are some good writers in Minnesota. Many of the stories featured local settings and all of us agreed it was refreshing to read scripts which had a distinctive cultural feel and atmosphere to them.
This drove home a point I’ve made on the blog before: Use what you know to your advantage. There are SO many scripts floating through Hollywood which feel JUST LIKE each other… same concepts, same set-ups, same characters, same settings. If you live in Maine or Louisiana or Utah or, yes, Minnesota, even a different country, guess what? Your actual life experience could very well provide you a story context which inherently sets itself apart from a more typical spec script.
I also learned that the Independent Film Project is more than just the outfit which sponsors the annual Spirit Awards. It’s got a whole host of resources and programs, such as the Minnesota Screenwriting Residency competition, which are there to provide opportunities for writers and filmmakers outside Hollywood.
Then there’s this: Do like Matthew Dressel does. He lives in Duluth, Minnesota. That is about as far north as you can go and still be in the continental United States. Right on Lake Superior, a typical scene in winter is something like this:
I mean, it’s about as big a contrast to Hollywood as one can imagine:
And yet check out what Matthew is doing in Duluth:
Matthew lives in Duluth with his wife and young daughter where he runs The Duluth Film Collective: an ever-growing group of filmmakers and film lovers who watch and discuss films, workshop projects, and program the film series Midnight Movies at 7 at Zinema 2. Matthew also runs The Duluth Film Directory: a growing list of active filmmakers working in Duluth.
He runs The Duluth Film Collective. He runs The Duluth Film Directory. He writes scripts. He makes movies.
Lesson: Wherever you are, you can make it happen there. That’s one of the beauties of screenwriting: You can write ANYWHERE. And if what you write pops on the page, all it takes is one set of eyeballs to change your life.
Which leads me to the last thing I learned. Well, more accurately, RE-learned. When I read a script, here are some things I’m looking for:
Does the writer display a distinctive voice?
Is the story concept a strong one / Does it feel like a movie?
Do the characters feel real and have compelling personalities?
Are the scenes well-constructed / Do they crackle with life?
Are scene transitions seamless?
Visual writing! Visual writing! Visual writing!
Conflict! Conflict ! Conflict!
Does the dialogue not only feel authentic, but have that ‘special sauce’?
Is there a narrative drive which propels the plot forward?
Does the story has to have a rich psychological life to it?
Does the story MEAN something / What is its central theme?
Does the story have significant stakes?
With rare exception, a “promising screenplay” has to have it all. Or at the very least, the potential within the story and the writer’s talent exhibited on the page to suggest it can happen in rewrites.
When you read 10 scripts back to back in a compressed time period, those qualifiers as listed above really stand out when they are present… and when they are not.
So congratulations to Matthew Dressel for winning this competition. To the other 9 finalists, I enjoyed reading your screenplays. Each of you has talent. My advice? Re-double your efforts. Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages.