SCREENWRITER: Luke Oberholtzer (The Woodlands,
Q: When did you write your first screenplay?
A: I finished my first screenplay, Drain Babies (the one entered in competitions), in May, 2014. However, I did rework it some as recently as early 2015. I like to think of it as completed...until changes are needed.
Q: To date, approximately how many screenplays have you written?
A: Drain Babies is the only presentable one. I am currently finishing the rewrite of a script right now under contract.
Q: Which screenwriting competitions have you entered and seen through to a final result?
A: To name some: Austin Film Festival, PAGE, A Night of Horror (third-place), Hollywood Screenplay Contest (finalist), Story Pros 7th Annual Screenplay Contest (semifinalist), Slamdance, Screencraft Comedy, Screencraft Horror....
Q: Approximately how many screenplays did you write prior to entering your first competition?
A: Drain Babies was the first.
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: Slamdance offered brief feedback. One person liked it, the other person didn’t. However, from the notes given I don’t believe they read it.
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, a great number did.
Q: If “yes” to the previous question, did you take advantage of any of these services? Was this a negative or positive experience?
A: I have never paid for consulting, proofreading, etc.
Q: If you won or placed high in a competition, did it have any effect, positive or negative, on your career?
A: It helps some with the resume but I think it’s only been positive in my head. I’m still very new to this so I need to build up a better resume but I am pleased with my start.
Q: What types of prizes (monetary and non-monetary) have you won from the screenplay competitions you’ve entered?
A: The only thing I have won—which I believe is priceless—is the fact I have a little recognition of my work to put on my resume, and the confidence to know I did something that someone liked.
Q: Have you ever submitted one of your early screenplays into a competition? If so, is it something you now regret—and why?
A: The only thing I would change is not entering as many contests, and [sticking] to the better ones. It was my first time though, and a great learning experience.
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 honestly have no idea because I haven’t heard back. I know that it has a nice ring to it and I think, especially with the content of my script, it brings some validity that it's an actual movie, so that’s nice.
Q: Overall, what do you feel were the positive aspects of entering a screenplay competition?
A: Competition is great. It also can validate the hard work you’ve put into something.
Q: Overall, what do you feel were the negative aspects of entering a screenplay competition?
A: It’s subjective. If you get one bad reader, you’re done. Not everyone has the same tastes. Are you the first screenplay the reader read that day or the fiftieth? It’s the luck of the draw in many cases.
Q: What is your current status as a screenwriter?
A: I am currently employed under contract to rewrite a feature script. It’s being shopped to producers and will hopefully be made in the near future. I believe it will get made and be a low budget movie. I hope it leads to bigger and better things.
Q: Any parting comments, thoughts, or words of advice for screenwriters considering entering a competition?
A: Do your research on festivals and aim for ones that mean something. Don’t take rejection personally. Don’t let advancing in a competition go to your head. Stay humble and hungry. Last, I would say network network network and put yourself in a situation to be successful. I made a short film of the first ten pages of my feature to show the tone and vision of the piece in order to show investors/buyers what the movie would physically look like. The film is currently in post-production, so hopefully in six months I can have more insight into that process. Always be professional and putting yourself in a position to win; don’t wait for them to come to you.