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A Contest Among Contests

A Contest Among Contests

Articles - Screenwriting

The transition from producer
to entrepreneur is a logical one-particularly when you’ve heard one too many complaints
that there “are no good scripts.” For producer-turned-screenwriting-guru
Mark Andrushko, that’s exactly what prompted him to co-found the
Scriptapalooza Screenwriting Competition with Genevieve Cibor in
1998. “[I] realized how thirsty my production company and literary
contacts were for great writers and material,” he states.

Six years later, Scriptapalooza is one of the
nation’s most recognized
screenwriting competitions, with a $10,000 grand prize, support
from the WGA and over 50 top production companies and literary
representatives (including A Band Apart, The Disney Channel and
HBO Films) requesting the work of its writers. From his Hollywood
home base, Andrushko spoke with MM about the growth of his
company and the ways in which new writers can get their work read-and
produced.

Jennifer Wood (MM): Scriptapalooza
was founded in 1998 with the mission to "nurture talent and create opportunities," two
goals of which you have certainly exceeded. What have been your
proudest moments and greatest accomplishments over the past six
years?

Mark Andrushko (MA): The main objective
was always to create opportunities. And now, we’re having our winners, finalists and
semifinalists winning Daytime Emmys, getting their scripts optioned
and sold to major production companies. One of our TV finalists
just started writing for Comedy Central. Also, it’s nice to see
that studios are approaching us for material to read. Those are
highlights, but being recognized and supported by the WGA, West
this year is something we are proud of.

MM: Currently, Scriptapalooza is divided into three
separate parts: the Screenwriting Competition, the Television
Writing Competition and the Coverage Service. Do each of these
businesses exist independently, or do you find a lot of crossover
between those who are entering the Screenwriting and Television
Writing competitions and those taking advantage of your coverage
services?

MA: Each division is separate and does
exist separately. I’m sure there is some crossover between the competitions, but
the truth is we don’t compare the databases to see if a writer
has submitted for the other divisions.

After we created the Screenwriting Competition,
we researched the television writing competitions that were available.
We also
contacted literary representatives and production companies to
see if there was an interest in reading the winners’ [scripts].
After determining that there was an interest from the industry,
we developed a competition to a writer’s strengths, which is why
each television competition has three categories: pilot, existing
sitcom and existing drama.

The coverage service department was developed
years later, largely due to the fact that we were referring writers
to other companies
when they contacted us to do coverage on a script. The service
is for a writer to strengthen their script. We don’t market the
script afterwards or attach ourselves to their script; it is used
as a tool, by the writer, to gauge industry response before they
start showing it around. The script isn’t tagged or tracked-it
is literally for a writer to improve their existing script.

MM: Are there other areas and/or
business ventures you’re
looking to tackle in the future?

MA: At this time, me and my partner, Genevieve Cibor, are
giving our fullest focus and dedication to our existing divisions.

MM: With so many aspiring screenwriters out there and
just as many screenwriting competitions, what do you think sets
Scriptapalooza apart the most? What does your competition offer
entrants to make it one of the top contests out there?

MA: I’m comfortable saying that six years ago when we started
our competition, no other competition was naming their "established
industry production companies." We changed that and started
a trend among competitions to state which companies would be receiving
the winners’ script. Being one of first competitions to do that
set us apart immediately.

Now, we have production companies and literary
reps coming to us to judge the entrants. Also, we promote the
top 13 scripts,
three winners and 10 runners-up for a full year. Our sponsor, Write
Brothers, creators of award-winning screenwriting software programs,
gives the top 30 writers software. Oh, of course, the first place
winner gets $10,000-but I think the opportunities offered and doors
that are opened are priceless to a writer.

MM: What type of scripts and screenwriters are you most
interested in finding?

MA: Since this is a competition, we
don’t judge on genre,
we judge on writing-period.

MM: How does today’s writing marketplace differ from
the marketplace within which you first opened your doors in 1998?
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the kinds
of films that are getting interest and ultimately getting made?

MA: There seemed to be smaller films, more of the independent-type
script. But then again, six years ago our competition received
650 scripts. We see a larger variety of scripts now, and at this
point we receive many more scripts.

MM: Do you have any predictions on how the market may
change again in the near future?

MA: The future is pretty much determined
by regular folks attending movies. If one type of film breaks
box office records,
then everyone is writing that type of film. The great thing about
Scriptapalooza is that we don’t have to worry what the latest trend
is, because as a competition, we are looking for skilled writers-regardless
of genre or budget.

MM: In recent years, there seems to have been a large
increase in the number of people out there who are trying to
make it as a screenwriter or at least working on an idea for
a script. What do you see as the most frequent pitfalls for first-time
scribes? For those new to the business, what is the most important
piece of advice you would give them about writing a script that
gets noticed?

MA: Proofread! Typos and grammatical errors are simply
not acceptable when your script is your calling card. Make sure
your characters have their own voices. Make sure there is a driving
force in the script. Writers should give their buddies a copy of
the script and focus on repeated comments and suggestions. Finally:
rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

MM: When is your next competition taking place, and
how can readers learn more about it?

MA: The next deadline is March 5, 2004 and the final deadline
is April 15, 2004. The best way to learn about Scriptapalooza is
to go to our Website, read the Q&As, rules and regulations
and basically get an overall feel for what we have accomplished
for writers in the past five years.

For more information, visit http://www.scriptapalooza.com

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