When the Nashville Film Festival Screenplay Competition launched last year with twenty categories, it was practically unheard of. In NaFF Director Michael Wood‘s words, “We looked at other competitions and what they were doing. We wanted to combine the best ideas we could find and make sort of our own Frankenstein competition.“ And so they set about assembling a monster of a contest. When they finally put their own creation together, they definitely made him look good.
Location was one of the first things I noticed. The NaFF took over a cinema complex for the screenwriting events. Instead of having to run from one venue to another, screenwriters found everything was housed within one building. With the screenwriting panel – rather than a lecture series on writing advice, they talked more about the hustle, the social side of the industry.
“The Writer’s Hustle” dealt with getting your script read and navigating the industry. It was a full house for the panel which included William M. Akers (author of the bestselling book, Your Screenplay Sucks!, Hollywood publicist Harold Loren, and actor-writers Richard Speight Jr (Thank You For Smoking) and David Alford (ABC's "Nashville").
Tweaking the voltage...
However, change is inevitable, and the 2015 competition will see some streamlining for short screenplays. Instead of ten categories, there are now six: Drama, Comedy, Family Friendly (Music Inspired, Historical, Animation, Inspirational, Family), Genre (Action/Adventure, Thriller/Horror, Science Fiction), Tennessee Short and the Young Screenwriter field. With an entry fee of just $25 through the Early Bird deadline of August 15, it's still a great bargain as contests go.
They're not just pieces parts...
"The Monster" is made up of many parts, and winning one of the competition categories is not the only reason to look at the Nashville Film Festival. As Michael said, “We have directors here. We have producers here. We have agents here. And they are interested in good writers. So the festival itself is a big networking opportunity. Not just entering the competition – but actually being here, being able to talk about a script, is very advantageous to you.“
And networking was just what I found screenwriting finalists Dianna Zimmerman and Karisa Ewinger doing – having lunch at a local eatery during the festival.
Dianna has been screenwriting for four years and has had tremendous success in numerous competitions. Her script "Torched", cowritten with her screenwriting partner Brad Jost, is currently in pre-production. Karisa was there with her first screenplay, an adaptation of her excellent Children's Novel, The Key to Nede. By the time I wandered by, both acted like old friends. They both were enjoying sharing war stories and encouragement.
Dianna: "My writing partner (husband Brad Jost) and I have had screenplays that have placed well and we’re looking to take that next step into getting it made. I’ve been to a few film festivals and I always find it helpful meeting other writers. The bigger your circle is, the better. You never know when opportunities are going to arise. We’re pushing pretty hard trying to make something happen. Submit to contests, pitching online, trying to meet people." Still, she notes, "It’s tough."
Karisa: "Being here and placing – you go through so much rejection – it truly is just an honor just to be nominated because, at least, it’s the opposite of, “Your Screenplay Sucks!” It gives you that extra energy and push."
Remember, the Early Bird Deadline for the $25 entry fee is August 15.
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