In today’s world, social networking is a powerful tool for writers. My last few assignments found me that way. But sometimes it goes the other way and I am the one who finds an interesting contact. That’s how I crossed paths with Dawn Fields and the Palm Street Films Script Contest. Up to now, this has been a semi-private competition hosted by Dawn for her personal internet social circle. Now in its third year, Dawn has agreed to open it up to all of you and has also expanded it to include feature screenplays. Grand Prize for best feature is $1,000.00 and Grand Prize for best short is $500.00. Using this process, Palm Street Films hopes to find material that they'd like to produce or that they can help get produced. But you’ll need to hurry, the contest ends April 30, 2014. (Since this is a small prodco with limited reading resources, they do reserve the right to limit the number of entries if they begin to get deluged with too many scripts.)
Palm Street Films, LLC was founded by filmmaker Dawn Fields, who has over twenty years of production experience working for such companies as Twentieth Century Fox, LucasFilm, Tri-Star, ABC, NBC Universal, Morgan Creek, Rat Productions, Lorimar, Orion and Aaron Spelling. She has worked as a producer, director, writer and editor and has a background in development, acquisitions, crowd funding and independent distribution. I talked with Dawn about her screenplay contest.
DG: How did the Palm Street Films Script Contest come about?
A few years back, after being in development on a feature film for far too long, I decided I just HAD to shoot something. I was tired of talking about story, I wanted to make a story and I wanted to do it immediately. I reached out to my Facebook friends and said 'if any of you have a short film script under ten pages, I'll pay you $150 and I'll make the film'. I immediately received over 300 scripts. I narrowed that down and ultimately chose Carly Street's Fragment.
A year or so later, we were given access to a series of standing sets on a stage in Orange County and decided to take advantage of it and make another film. So again, I put out a call to my Facebook. John Whetstone came up with The Interrogation, which was a comedic misdirect: you think you’re in a police station but then it's revealed that you're really somewhere else. It went on to have its world premiere at the Santa Barbara Film Festival and its Los Angeles premiere at Dances With Films. Both were extremely well received by audiences. Fragment, now entitled A Fragile Storm, has been called by many people one of the best short scripts they've ever read. We began production on that film last year and will be completing production this year. We invested over $10,000.00 in The Interrogation and will invest over $45,000.00 in A Fragile Storm, which we hope will be a huge award-winner.
DG: What are your thoughts on producing yet another one of your contest winners?
We're very interested in either producing any of the other winning scripts (including finalists and semi-finalists) ourselves or in helping them get set up for production. So, even if you don't win the Grand Prize, you still have a shot of someone being interested in making your film. We are filmmakers, not script readers. We invest our time, energy and resources into getting films made. Plus you can win some cashola.
DG: What are some of the most important takeaways from what you've learned so far working in the industry?
In recent years I've learned the value of relationships. Hollywood is a small town and paths cross time and time again. I'm learning that how you treat people defines you. Being talented doesn't hurt, either. But regardless of all that, the cold hard truth is that if you want to make a career in this business you have to be able to raise or attract money. Period.
DG: What advice would you give to aspiring writers or filmmakers?
Don't ever let anyone tell you can't do something. If you have a vision, stick by it and defend it. However, always ask for feedback and learn from it. Be realistic about what your talents and skills are and be honest with yourself. When you write good material and make good films, you will get noticed. If however, you consistently get mediocre or luke-warm responses to your work, you may want to study, learn and grow more as an artist. Or perhaps you simply need to figure out what audiences really want. Either way, always be aware of what's around you, what's selling and what people respond to. Make no mistake, you're making a film for an audience, not just for yourself.
Learn more about Palm Street Films Script Contest.