This past week I got together with a friend I hadn’t seen in several months. We saw The Hobbit in this new format called 48 FPS (frames per second). I’m all about new technologies, but we both thought this was an epic fail visually. When your eye is caught paying attention to the film like a high resolution TV broadcast that looks like a daytime soap opera, that’s not the experience I want.
But prior to the film, our conversation centered on screenwriting. Something my friend wants to do. He reminded me of when I started to write screenplays. Where do you start? How do you get your work “scene”? While there’s no magic answer to this and every writer’s path is different, there are some practical ways to get your work noticed and maybe gather up some awards in the process.
I think it’s safe to say that anyone that writes their first screenplay does so from an area or interest of life that is passionate to them. For me, I have always loved science fiction and the space program. When I wrote First World in 2006 the first draft was pretty awful. I had this great screenwriting software called Final Draft (side note: it’s the best screenwriting software out there. It’s worth the expense), but painfully little guidance at the time other than enthusiasm. Well after showing it to some friends in the business, getting some solid feedback and several rewrites I was coached to enter it into some contests.
In the industry there is a website called Withoutabox.com. This is a portal in which the majority of film festivals take submissions. A good number of film festivals also have screenwriting contests. That’s where I found my first screenwriting nomination for First World.
By the time the festival had arrived I had already produced and screened the short film version. But there was something pretty exhilarating when the email came in from the California Independent Film Festival. First World had been nominated for Best Screenplay. The word “Best” was pretty fabulous. I was told that they had just over eighty screenplay submissions and only five were nominated for the Best Screenplay award.
When I went to the festival, I was surrounded by like minded people that were exceedingly passionate about their craft. I didn’t win the Best Screenplay award, but just hearing “And the nominations are….First World by Mark Lund….” was good enough for me.
My point is that getting your work seen and read has to all start someplace. And while I have entered numerous contests with no awards along the way, that one nomination renewed my passion to write, to rewrite (yes, that’s part of the process) and to develop new ideas. It was from writing the sequel to First World, Exodus that the idea for Justice Is Mind came to me.
But let’s not sugar coat this too much. The entertainment industry is perhaps one of the most difficult industries to navigate. While the advent of new technologies has made entry far easier from when I wrote First World, it is every screenwriters dream to see their work produced or at least optioned. While Justice Is Mind has been produced, I’m still determined to see First World liftoff to a feature presentation. In so many ways it comes down to timing, market conditions, etc. But that’s a post for another day.
When I saw a rough cut of the trailer for Justice Is Mind this week, I could not have been happier with the result. For any of us that write, we do so alone and lost in our thoughts as we translate those to what we hope is a workable story. Like that first nomination years ago, I now know producing an independent feature film is also possible. Thus, my next screenplay revolves around an ocean liner.