Dani Faith Leonard Helps Writers With Big Visions But Empty Wallets


Dani Faith Leonard and Alex Cirillo know how important it is for independent artists to have a sense of community. To that end, the two moviemakers created Big Vision Empty Wallet, an organization that gives artists the chance to network and share their talents. Realizing that it’s particularly difficult for writers to get their scripts into the right hands, BVEW launched the Big Vision Empty Wallet Screenwriting Competition as a way to help screenplay scribes gain exposure.

In advance of the competition’s October 15th submission deadline, MovieMaker had a chance to speak with Leonard to learn more about Big Vision Empty Wallet and its new screenwriting competition.

Samantha Husik (MM): How did the idea for Big Vision Empty Wallet’s Screenwriting Competition originate?

Dani Faith Leonard (DFL): The idea for our Screenwriting Competition originated when we expanded our company with our membership initiative. BVEW started as an NYC-focused online magazine for independent film. Soon after, we expanded by offering national content and launched our membership initiative to provide even better resources for all artists. Now, Big Vision Empty Wallet is a networking organization dedicated to bringing together artists from all over the world and helping them create art with no rules. Our members work in independent film and other forms of art: Theatre, visual arts, music, dance, multimedia, etc. Some of our first members were screenwriters, and we are always trying to help them figure out the best ways to get their work read and, ultimately, produced. Often, writers aren’t thought of as artists in the traditional sense, so we wanted to provide them with an opportunity to have their work read by successful writers and filmmakers. We decided to host a competition, and as soon as our incredible judges were on board we sprung into action!

MM: What sets the BVEW Screenwriting Competition apart from the other screenwriting contests out there?

DFL: Our judges are fantastic storytellers. That was extremely important to us. It’s not about the marketability of the script, and we are not looking to reward the most commercial film. The winners will be stories that are the most original and engaging, as decided by a panel of judges that includes New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice, Margin Call writer/director J.C. Chandor and Emmy, Peabody, and Oscar-winning writer/director Robert Levi.

We’re excited to offer writers the opportunity to have their scripts read by industry judges and to meet with potential agents and production companies that can take their hard work from the page to the screen. Besides meetings with agents and production companies, the Grand Prize Winner gets a table reading of their script! A cash prize would only help the winner until the money was spent. We want to provide an immediate opportunity to take the winning screenplays to the next level. Our goal is to introduce emerging screenwriters to top agents and production companies as well as to BVEW’s large audience of talented artists.

MM: What’s the ideal type of script your judges are looking to read—and reward? Can a strong story make up for incorrect formatting, etc.? Or will professionalism be a part of the consideration process?

DFL: Our judges will be evaluating the scripts based on creativity, originality and quality of the writing. The ideal winner will be a script that is an original concept or a new take on an old classic.

The strength of the story is always more important that the technical elements of screenwriting. However, in the context of the competition, professionalism is extremely important, especially since the winners receive meetings with top industry professionals. We wouldn’t want the competition to come down to technicalities, so we expect well-written, properly-formatted scripts from creative writers who are serious about their craft. BVEW members are talented, ambitious artists whom we know will submit outstanding work.

MM: How can writers enter the competition?

DFL: We support artists, so instead of just charging you to submit your screenplay, we offer you the incredible benefits of joining BVEW for an entire year! There is no submission fee; you simply have to become a BVEW member to submit. Membership is open to arts professionals in all disciplines, from film to theatre to visual arts to music and more. Whether you’re an up-and-comer or a seasoned pro, BVEW offers resources that every artist can benefit from as well as tools to further the collaborative process. Members can create a profile where they can share their work, take advantage of exclusive member deals and discounts, use BVEW’s extensive resource guide—which includes over 125 production forms, N.Y. and L.A. vendor directories and listings of film commissions and unions—and keep up-to-date with festival and grant deadlines. Members can also browse through jobs available on BVEW’s projects board and post opportunities on the jobs board and in the BVEW member bulletin. Members attend free BVEW events, which range from intimate film screenings to interdisciplinary celebrations of the arts that showcase members’ work. Where most competitions force you to pay to submit, we invite you into our network of artists and provide you with outstanding resources to further your career.

To learn more about Big Vision Empty Wallet and the BVEW screenplay competition, visit www.BigVisionEmptyWallet.com.

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