Now in its 14th year, Scriptapalooza remains unlike any other screenplay competition. When you submit your script to Scriptapalooza, it will be read by the elite of the film industry: Over 90 producers, managers and agents, with judges coming from such notable production companies as Lawrence Bender Productions (Good Will Hunting, An Inconvenient Truth), Ambush Entertainment (The Squid and the Whale, Super) and BenderSpink (A History of Violence, Arthur). These are the companies with the magic touch to turn your dream into a feature film.
Past winners have gone on to win Emmys, sign with top-notch producers and managers, have their scripts optioned and even, in some lucky cases, turned into actual movies. While the grand prize is mighty impressive ($10,000), what makes Scriptapalooza special is that it allows writers to form industry connections with those who can actually make a difference.
With the next deadline set for March 5th, MM recently caught up with Scriptapalooza president/co-founder Mark Andrushko to find out more about this year’s competition.
Kyle Rupprecht (MM): Why should writers submit their work to Scriptapalooza, as opposed to other screenwriting competitions?
Mark Andrushko (MA): Scriptapalooza is going into its 14th year, and we have proven to the industry and to writers that we are committed to working for writers and opening doors for them. We have over 90 producers, managers and agents that read all the entries that come in. We do not use regular people to judge the scripts like other competitions do.
MM: How has Scriptapalooza changed the most from its early days? What changes or plans do you have in store for the upcoming year?
MA: I don’t think much has changed. Ever since we started Scriptapalooza, it has always been about the writer, about getting them through that Hollywood door. We have always worked with Write Brothers. They have the best screenwriting software for writers on the market.
We added a new category this year, “Best in Genre” (seven in total). We just had a new website built, we are giving away bigger cash prizes and we just had a commercial made to explain how Scriptapalooza works. Please visit our website to see it, we’re really proud of it.
MM: This year, you’re awarding some major cash and software prizes. What can you tell us about them?
MA: We are offering $10,000 as the Grand Prize and seven cash prizes for the Genre winners. But I do believe the biggest prize of all is that Scriptapalooza promotes and pushes the top 100 scripts for a full year. No other competition in the world does that. After we announce the semifinalists, we promote and pitch them for an entire year. I don’t think it’s that crazy—that’s our job, that’s what a competition should be doing. These 100 scripts are all great. Any of them can be made into a movie, or at least get the writer a meeting with a producer, and the writer can show them what else he/she has to offer.
Here’s how the process works: After we announce the winners, we literally call and pitch the top 100 to all of our contacts—that’s about 125 producers. They tell us what they are looking for and we go through the list/loglines of the top 100 and get the right script to the right producer. It’s a win/win situation. If a competition that you are going to enter doesn’t do that, don’t enter it. Plain and simple. Entering a screenplay competition isn’t about the “Grand Prize”—that’s a long shot. Go for the connections and what they can do with your script.
MM: ScreenwritingU was recently announced as the Official Screenwriting Class of Scriptapalooza. How did that come about, and how does ScreenwritingU relate to Scriptapalooza?
MA: We rarely endorse anyone. Write Brothers, the software giant that makes Movie Magic Screenwriter, has been our partner for well over 10 years. And I’ve noticed that a lot of people are raving over ScreenwritingU. They have really good screenwriting classes, and they really care. And that reminds me of us: At the end of the day, we are all about getting that writer that job, that meeting or getting their script optioned. So I feel that ScreenwritingU and Scriptapalooza are a good fit.
MM: You’re offering feedback for $75. How does that work?
MA: If you enter the competition, you can, at the same time you’re applying, order coverage on your script for $75. This gives you the advantage of receiving detailed notes on your script in these categories:
• First Twenty Pages
• General Notes
Your feedback will include a logline, a synopsis and a total four to five pages of notes.
MM: With the screenplay deadline set for March 5, what’s the best piece of advice you’d offer the aspiring scribes who’d love to win this year’s Scriptapalooza?
MA: Don’t go after the grand prize… that’s not what you should be shooting for. Make sure your script is really good and ready [before you] submit it, and hopefully it floats to the top and makes the top 100, because then we promote it for a full year. Only one writer wins the cash, but 99 others win the same amount of exposure.
MM: Anything else you’d like to add?
MA: I think it’s important to let everyone know we don’t believe in readers, because readers can’t do anything with your script. All the reading at Scriptapalooza is done by producers, managers and agents. We go right to the source—that being a producer, manager or agent. These are the people that can set-up a meeting, option your script, take it to the studio or outright buy it. Readers are not qualified [and do not] have any power/connections to get your script into the right hands. A lot of writers want feedback when they enter the competition. But be careful, [because] getting feedback from just anyone is pointless. Getting feedback from Scriptapalooza is priceless. We have had judges request contact information on scripts that are still in the judging process.
Also, the writers that make it to the top 100, including the winner, must be active participants in their career. The writer has to be prepared to self-promote, to use their placement in the competition as a springboard. We have gotten people meetings, and they didn’t know how to handle themselves, nor did they have other material to show the interested parties. Winning a competition is definitely a huge accomplishment, but that’s when the real work begins for a writer. Scriptapalooza opens the door, but ultimately it is the writer who needs to show up and walk through it.
The next deadline for Scriptapalooza is March 5th, with the final deadline scheduled for April 19th, 2012. For more information, go to www.scriptapalooza.com, and be sure to check out the aforementioned Scriptapalooza commercial: