SCREENWRITING COMPETITIONS: A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE (MICHAEL BIERMAN)



SCREENWRITER: Michael E. Bierman (AtlantaGeorgia)


Q: Michael…when did you write your first screenplay?

A: Mid-2012. I was disappointed with the quality of sides from scripts my daughter, [actress] Erika Bierman (Hunger Game: Catching Fire, etc.), was receiving. I bought The Screenwriter's Bible by David Trottier and Your Cut To: Is Showing by T. J. Alex (both highly recommended) and taught myself to screenwrite. My first screenplay, a short, took Top 25 Scripts at PAGE.

Q: To date, approximately how many screenplays have you written?

A: Six original features completed; 55/70 pages done on my seventh original feature, The Grocer; one rewrite on a CAA untitled packaged feature project in developmentin production; one co-write on a feature; one script doctor credit on a feature; two script doctor or other writing credits on shorts; new idea in development for my eighth feature; four shorts.

Q: Which screenwriting competitions have you entered and seen through to a final result?

A; PAGE Awards (pending), Stage 32 Happy Writers (finalist), 8th Annual StoryPros Awards (finalist), ScreenCraft Comedy (semi-finalist), Horror Screenplay Contest (finalist), MoviePoet (finalist—top 5 scripts), Circus Road Screenplay Contest (semi-finalist), Nashville (semi-finalist), 72 Film Fest (finalist), ScreenCraft's Horror Screenplay Contest (semi-finalist), Emerging Screenwriters (finalist), ScreenCraft Family-Friendly Screenplay Contest (semi-finalist), Beverly Hills Screenplay Contest (4th place), London Film Awards (finalist and honorable mention), Screenplay Festival (finalist and semi-finalist), WriteMovies (semi-finalist—top 5%), Screenplay Festival (finalist), London Screenwriters Festival (finalist and honorable mention).

Q: Approximately how many screenplays did you write prior to entering your first competition?

A: I entered my first screenplay.

Q: Did the competition(s) offer feedback—notes, critique, etc.—on the script(s) you entered? If so, what was the quality of the feedback?

A: Many offered. I bought a couple feedbacks. A few came free. I won a couple. Some were useful, most were NOT useful. A number clearly had not read, thoughtfully considered, or understood the screenplay.

Q: Did any of the competitions you entered try to hit you up for pay-based services, such as script consulting, proofing, etc.?

A: Yes, several did….I won a StoryPros deep analysis valued at $500 for taking 2nd place with The Fad in their annual competition. I used it for Rust, and the analysis was exceptional. I did not take all of the advice, but carefully considered everything. I did take some of the advice. It helped me improve Rust.

Q: If you won or placed high in a competition, did it have any effect, positive or negative, on your career?

A: Not directly, but the added oomph to the resume almost certainly helped me land a couple paid jobs. 32 contest awards, still no representation, although I have admittedly barely tried. I had hoped someone would finally take interest. Perhaps they will eventually. I have been approached by an A-list producer who has repeatedly inquired about scripts. Very slow developing, but still in touch. 

Q: What types of prizes (monetary and non-monetary) have you won from the screenplay competitions you’ve entered?

A: Analysis, software, books and laminated aides. No cash yet, even with
2nd Place and two 4th places.

Q: Other than any material rewards and/or valuable feedback, what have been the most satisfying aspects of winning a competition?

A: The affirmation that I am a skilled screenwriter. Getting interviewed, and improving the resume. All the awards seem to get me taken seriously, at least by Indie people and other writers. A number of professional writers have asked to read my screenplays, and have liked them or raved about them. As far as insiders, it is rough sledding.

Q: OK, let’s say you’ve just won one of the big screenwriting competitions. What can a writer expect to happen?

A: Some exposure. Hopefully, professional reads and meetings. Maybe getting signed with a rep. Perhaps optioning the screenplay.

Q: Have you ever submitted one of your early screenplays into a competition? If so, is it something you now regret—and why?

A: No regrets.

Q: Do you feel that adding "I won/placed high in the [name of script comp]" to query letters and pitches prompted any additional interest from agents, managers and/or production companies you queried?

A: I would imagine it would, but have sent only a few queries. A single response, no interest; they had a similar project in development. I did only send to industry leaders.

Q: Overall, what do you feel were the positive aspects of entering a screenplay competition?

A: Affirmation, exposure…adding to the resume.

Q: Overall, what do you feel were the negative aspects of entering a screenplay competition?

A: They cost a lot of money and yield very mixed results. A screenplay that failed to make the first cut in a lesser competition will often be a semi-finalist, finalist, or winner in a better competition.  

Q: What is your current status as a screenwriter?

A:  I have been paid or am under contract to be paid for several legitimate projects, one top-notch. Still writing and hoping to make it bigger. I have perhaps four IMDb credits for writing, all on other people's projects.  

Q: Any parting comments, thoughts, or words of advice for screenwriters considering entering a competition?

A: Enter no screenplay before its time. Learn to format correctly and thoroughly. Not just the basics. Buy the two books I recommended and actually read them. Get rid of camera direction and almost all shot direction. Do not use “We see” or any of that garbage. Rewrite it and be clever, without the use of “we” and “us.” Write well, proofread endlessly, and constantly try to improve. Don't get discouraged by a single failure. In my experience, there are many bad readers out there. If you can't get past the bad reader, the good one that will recognize you as talented and your work a gem will never see it. KEEP TRYING.

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(A Novel About Making It In Hollywood.)




1 comment:

Peter Erbacher said...

Interesting read Mike!