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Short Circuit: Spotlight – Nashville Film Festival

There’s a new posse ridin' into the short screenplay circuit and they are comin' in guns ablazin'. With ten short screenplay categories, this is one roundup you won't want to miss at Country Music capital's Nashville Film Festival on April 17–26, 2014!

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Historic and high-profile, the NaFF has been around for 45 years, but this is their first year to host a Screenwriting Competition for both features and shorts.

Michael Wood is the Screenwriting Competition Manager for the Nashville Film Festival. A graduate of the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts with a degree in writing for film and television, he won the C. Stephen Gentry Award for Academic Excellence at USC. Originally from Columbia, Tennessee, he's returned to his roots. I asked Michael to talk with us about what could very well become the premier shorts contest venue for screenwriters.

NaFF Michael-Wood

Script: NaFF is one of the very few film festivals to offer separate categories for short screenplays, much less ten of them: Drama, Comedy, Action/Adventure, Thriller, Family Film, Inspirational, Animated Film, Science Fiction, Historical Film, and Music-Inspired. What led you to that decision?

Michael: We want to give entrants as many opportunities to win as possible. Winning or placing in screenwriting competitions can be a gateway to careers getting started, and short screenplays can be a great way for up-and-coming writers to finish something quickly that demonstrates their storytelling talent. Also, short screenplays could be very quick reads for industry professionals looking for great screenplays, and gaining recognition in our competition could lead to industry professionals noticing the writers. In addition to the ten categories you listed, we offer short screenplay categories for Tennessee-born or currently residing screenwriters, and a special short screenplay category for Young Screenwriters (age 19 and under). The Young Screenwriters category is a particular passion of mine, as I started writing at 14 and would love to give recognition and awards to all the ambitious teens out there who have already discovered their love for the craft.

In the short screenplays that we have read so far, there have been some truly terrific stories that were joyously fast reads. Sometimes there are twists at the end, for example. A good short screenplay can really capture and hold the reader's attention, as much less time is spent on a set-up as compared to a feature, so the action of the story both begins and climaxes very quickly.

Script: How in the world do you handle the judging for such a wide array of categories?

Michael: We select, train, and test readers with professional experience in writing and film. These readers follow our judging criteria. We look for overall merit of the entries in every category.

Script: You have an impressive array of producers and directors reading the feature film winners. Will the winning scripts in the short categories also be read by these professionals?

Michael: While we cannot guarantee that the winning scripts in the short categories will be read by these professionals, the professionals can request to read as many scripts from our competition as they like. Some of the professionals have already requested to read scripts from multiple categories.

Script: The NaFF has been around for a long time. What makes it so special and to what do you attribute its longevity?

Michael: The selection of films in our Festival is incredible. There really is something for everyone, from the hottest new independent films in the Festival circuits to brilliant short films that showcase the magnificent film-making talent from around the world just waiting to be discovered. Our Festival is an Academy-qualifying event, meaning that short films that screen at our Festival will automatically be considered for an Oscar. In addition, in recent years we have partnered with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for special events, including the Celebration of Kurdish Films during the 2013 Festival. Finally, our big-city location as well as Southern hospitality atmosphere really showcases the artistic potential of Nashville, which is one of the hottest up-and-coming cities in the nation now. This year the Festival incorporates Downtown Nashville and some of Nashville's most legendary locations, so the Festival could be a fantastic tourist opportunity.

Our deadline for submissions to the Screenwriting Competition is February 3rd, and we strongly encourage short screenplay submissions. So far, we have not received as many short screenplay submissions as feature screenplay submissions, so the chance of winning or placing is very high.

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