So, you’ve finished your first screenplay. Congratulations! It’s been formatted correctly, with all the right margins, headings and spacing? Three-hole punched paper with brads for binding, no fancy pictures or decorations? Courier font, not Times New Roman, right? Good. So what will you do with your script now?

For many screenwriters, the next step is submitting to screenplay competitions. They have different entry fees and prizes. Some are standalone writing competitions, while some are a division of a larger film festival. But when you start to do your research, you’ll notice one name pop up again and again: Scriptapalooza.

Founded in 1998 by Mark Andrushko, Scriptapalooza awards a grand prize of $10,000, and while money’s a helpful thing to have when you want to make it as a writer, so are industry contacts. Thankfully, Scriptapalooza helps on that front, too. Submitted scripts are read by producers, managers and agents, and if they like what they read your film could end up in production.

The top three finishers from 2010’s Scriptapalooza, Andrew James Carter, David Jagernauth and Brien Kelly, took the time to answer MovieMaker’s questions on their scripts and their experiences with Scriptapalooza. The 2011 deadline for Scriptapalooza is March 4th. For more information visit

Rebecca Pahle (MM): Tell me a bit about your script.

Andrew James Carter (AJC): Juice is a crime/action movie in which a cynical hitman must attempt the impossible and assassinate London’s top crime-lord while keeping his five separate clients from learning of each others’ existence.

The script has a large ensemble cast of characters, which presented an enjoyable challenge in ensuring each of them was unique and easily distinguishable from the others. I tried to create a world which seemed clichéd on the surface–paying homage to other films in the same genre–to help the protagonist stand out above the crowd (and so I could have fun subverting various stereotypes along the way).

David Jagernauth (DJ): Second Born is a sci-fi thriller about a world where consciousness is stored on computer chips in the brain, so after death people can continue to live in virtual reality environments or even be “reborn” in another body.

Brien Kelly (BK): My script is called A Novel Approach to Suicide and is about a used bookstore owner who comes across a book that has eerie correlations to his life. The story follows his pursuit to find out information about the book and to determine whether or not the story has any connection with reality.

MM: A huge part of the writing process has to do with revision. Have there been any radical changes between the script you thought you were going to end up with when you started and the finished product?

AJC: Most definitely. Juice started life as a short story many years ago, before I switched from writing prose to scripts. It was my initial intention to simply develop that story into a script for a short film, but inspiration struck during that process and the full plot of Juice grew from there. Only one event from the short story features in the finished version of the script.

I (perhaps somewhat foolishly) kept writing Juice as the story was still growing from short to feature. As a result, my first draft (which I never properly completed) became very confused and needlessly complex. After leaving the resulting mess on the back-burner for a time, I started again, planning the entire story from scratch and forcing back the compulsion to write until I had a complete plan to work from. As a result, the second draft of Juice was a much more solid script and I found it a real joy both to write and edit. It came together very quickly, and it was that version of Juice which would win Scriptapalooza several months later.

DJ: Absolutely. The script went through several revisions. I wrote this screenplay as part of a 10-week screenwriting class. I took that rough draft and rewrote and restructured until it was noticed by a manager, who worked with me to rewrite it to this point. I anticipate many more revisions in the future.

BK: There were not any radical changes between my initial outline and the finished script, but there were definitely elements that turned out differently than I had originally planned. I think that stems from the fact that my outlines are pretty minimal and only contain the basic action and plot points. When I sit down to write, often the characters will say things that I did not expect, or the mood or pacing will fluctuate depending on what feels right at the moment.
MM: What made you enter Scriptapalooza? What’s your experience with the contest been like?

AJC: Scriptapalooza’s one of the biggest contests out there and certainly the most prestigious of its kind. I never dreamed I’d end up winning; even getting to the semi-finals seemed incredible at the time. I’d definitely recommend that anyone who’s serious about screenwriting throws their hat into the ring this time round.

As for Scriptapalooza themselves, they’ve been great from the outset. They really do work harder for their finalists than any other competition I’ve experienced and they’ve kept us all continually updated at every step of the way. I really can’t thank them enough.

DJ: I believe screenplay contests are a great way to get a script noticed, especially when you’re just a guy in front of a computer with no contacts. Scriptapalooza is a major contest and I recommended it to anyone.

BK: When I finished my script, I scoured through screenplay magazines and the Internet to find the top rated screenplay contests, and Scriptapalooza was on almost every list I found. I also liked the name of it, so I figured I would give it a shot.

My experience with the contest has been nothing but first-rate. Since the contest results were announced, I have had many email conversations and even a few phone calls with producers about my work. Placing in Scriptapalooza has inspired me to keep writing and to get my work out there.

MM: What’s next for your script? Are you still making revisions, or are you gearing up for the “discussion with production companies and agents” phase that Scriptapalooza helps its winners with?

AJC: I think the current version of Juice is the last I’ll write until (if) it gets picked up for further development. To that end, I’m currently in the process of submitting to various producers in the UK while Scriptapalooza do the same in the US. I’m also in the process of looking for an agent or manager and, of course, continually looking to meet new people in the industry.

DJ: As a result of the exposure, Second Born has received attention from production companies and I am close to getting it optioned.

BK: I’ve made a few revisions to my script based on the notes and suggestions I’ve received from readers, but I’ve been spending most of my time working on new scripts. Most of the producers I’ve talked with want to see more, so I’ve been focused on producing more writing samples.

MM: Do you have any other scripts that you’re working on now?

AJC: My most important project at the moment is a low-budget feature script I’m developing to be directed by award-winning short-film director Marco van Belle. Aside from that, I recently finished another feature script (which I still intend to keep polishing for a month or two) and have two more features under construction that I dip into when I’m not in the right mood to work on either of the others.

DJ: I have another script, The Forgetting Day, which is currently being rewritten for a production company.

BK: I recently finished a script called Memory Gap. It’s about a private investigator who, after realizing he has no recollection of the fifth grade, searches for the cause of his memory loss and uncovers a secret that has long been forgotten. I am also finishing a script about an elementary school teacher who gets a student in her class that is mysteriously similar to her daughter who died years earlier in a horrible accident.

MM: Anything you’d like to add?

AJC: Only to thank Scriptapalooza again for all their hard work on behalf of myself and everyone who entered the contest. And to thank everyone who has given me any feedback on Juice in the last eighteen months, even if it was just to point out a typo. I won’t try and name you all for fear I might miss someone, but you know who you are.

BK: I guess I would like to encourage anybody who has written a script to send it out into the world. Enter it into Scriptapalooza, as well as other screenplay competitions, because you might have a winner on your hands. Placing in Scriptapalooza, even if you are not in the top three, will get you access to agents and producers — that will not happen, no matter how awesome your script is, if it stays on your hard drive.