In the heydays of the hot spec market where seemingly everything, even a bubblegum wrapper got read, when the big agencies spewed out piles of crap scripts faster then crap writers could crap them, a new industry was born. It preyed on greed, pride, obsession, and feelings of inadequacy, a rags to riches slide into lasting Hollywood glory. Screenwriting was sold as a lottery ticket and everyone could buy in.
So simple, the hucksters cried, to swallow an easy formula to Hollywood gold! Breeze through a pamphlet about story construction and everything was good to go. Film school?…Meh. Hard work?…Double Meh. If you can learn to play a piano in five easy steps, why not a Hollywood screenplay? How hard could it possibly be?
Savants exist in every field. Gloriously formed works flow from their brains like sweet wine from wooden kegs. Yet, for the lesser mortals it takes craft and hard work, a willingness to write and rewrite, outline, workshop, and rewrite once again.
Sprung from the myth of the easy-breezy script came a plethora of screenplay competitions. Each requires an entry fee, their prizes varing from stipends to fellowships to a phone call with an agent. Yes, an actual agent! Fortunately there are a few established, vetted professional competitions dedicated to promoting new talent. And those others, well…not so much, but they’re still willing to take your money. With lesser “competitions" the old adage holds true, “winning isn’t everything.”
A fact about screenwriting is that anyone can type a 120 pages but that doesn’t make it a script. A lump of white paper is still a lump no matter what you choose to call it.
A screenplay is not cookie dough from a tube ready to be sliced and heated. There are no software story engines to do the hard work. There is no simple fix. Screenwriting is an intricate weave of theme, plot and character held together by narrative threads. It is the foundation of every film, every performance, and every director’s attempt at art. It is the alpha and omega of the filmmaking universe and that dear writers takes craft.