Three FREE Script Opportunities for Screenwriters Looking for a Challenge

Screenwriter Cheryl Laughlin talks with Six-Page Scripts, Scriptwriters & Co, and Stage 32 and shares how you can expand your writing skills with these free podcasts, table reads, and other writer challenges.
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Photos Courtesy of Six Page Scripts, Scriptwriters & Co, and Stage 32

Photos Courtesy of Six Page Scripts, Scriptwriters & Co, and Stage 32

Short screenplays keep pushing to be seen on par with features, and rightfully so. In the past, shorts were often lumped together at film festivals to form a whole or snubbed as “shoulda beens” for longer format. But now shorts are being recognized for the awesome and impactful emotional hits that they are.

I even found myself – in The Long Way Round to Writing a Short – transforming a feature into a short to shoot as a proof of concept. Since then, I’m all about paying it forward for others working so hard to elevate the short screenplay.

Luckily, Twitter and internet rabbit holes landed me on three great (and FREE!) short and sometimes longer script opportunities for screenwriters – Six-Page Scripts, S&CO Scratch Nights, and Stage 32. Stay with me to find out how you can submit to each opp.

1st Up… Six-Page Scripts Podcast

Six-Page Scripts launched June 2020 as a new educational podcast created by screenwriters, for screenwriters. The four regular hosts – Mitch Olson, Jason Faust, Kelley Bostian, and Laura McCarter along with occasional industry professionals – read and workshop listener-submitted scripts every week. Mitch was Jason, Kelley, and Laura’s professor in the graduate program at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. Everyone went out in the world to gather filmmaking experiences and found their way back together to form this screenwriting podcast.

I took in a lightning round of helpful screenwriting info from all four hosts. So you can learn what they’re all about and how to submit your short to Six Page Scripts.

Mitch, is being the official boss man all it’s cracked up to be? 

Jason, Kelley, and Laura make it easy, which is why I wanted them to be part of this show. “Boss” is a nickname given to me by students from my teaching days. Kelley and Jason handle the production and post-production. Laura handles social media, marketing, and the site. And I handle the business end of things.

We’ve even forged key partnerships with major organizations like CoverFly, Stage 32, and the Nashville Film Festival.

[Script Extra: Why to Go and How to Plan Your Trip]

What’s your fav short-to-feature-film breakout?

I’m going to throw out three, because I’m an indecisive pain:

The Dirk Diggler Story into Boogie Nights, definitely near the top

– Then Whiplash, which we’ve talked about on the show

The Hard Case into Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels

Basically, I love the stories behind these…

– Paul Thomas Anderson dropping out of NYU after two days because his teacher gave a plagiarized page of David Mamet’s (unproduced at the time) script Hoffa a C+. He used the money he saved to shoot a short.

Whiplash as a feature no one wanted to make from the script, so it was made into a short, then won a bunch of awards and made into a feature.

– Finally, Guy Ritchie’s early films are cult classics and amazing and knowing that this short was the catalyst to those is awesome.

Kelley, who names the episodes? I must admit my fav podcast episode name is "LaCroix Addicts Anonymous.”

Kelley: Just imagine if you saw “LaCroix Addicts Anonymous” on any podcast that exists right now. You would definitely stop and think, “Hmm, LaCroix Addicts Anonymous? WTF is that?!”

Of course, we may come off as a bunch of goofy, care-free people, but from Episode 1 to the latest episode, we’ve changed our formula every step of the way based on feedback from fans and friends.

Laura, who tosses wonderful f-bombs intermittently in episodes?

We all sprinkle a few in, but Kelley is the culprit.

And who mentioned mono no aware? The esoteric word nerd in me has to know.

Jason is king nerd!

Jason, any amusing mini mishaps or podcast learning moments like to share?

Literally every week some new technical nightmare careens into our lives. It is usually localized in/around audio quality, which for a podcast is less than ideal.

The general two recommendations I have for future podcasters out there:

1. Standardize your gear if you are recording remotely ASAP, and

2. Always have your people recording on their local machine in addition to any cloud-based solution, such as Zencastr.

The Irish-American girl in me has to ask about that red beard. Makes you feel like an undiscovered Umbrella Academy superhero in the making.

Thank you! We're quite proud of it, especially given that hair refuses to grow on my actual scalp. Shame I have to cover it with a mask these days… but if I can do it and hide this baller beard, you can too.

And to sum it all up, what’s your fav short-to-feature-film breakout?

Toss-up between The Evil Dead (1981) and What We Do In The Shadows (2014).

*Side note, I had no idea these started as shorts!

To learn more, visit www.sixpagescripts.com or @sixpagescripts on Twitter and Instagram. Plus, submit your script for a chance for a Six-Pages Scripts table read and feedback on one of their upcoming podcasts.

[Script Extra: Listen to TV Writers Podcast for advice from pro writers!]

Next Up… Scriptwriters & Co Scratch Nights 

I discovered Scriptwriters & Co (S&Co) on the BBC Writersroom page. It’s run from the UK by award-winning scriptwriters Suzanna Cardash and Alex Hollister, repped by Zero Gravity Management.

Scriptwriters & Co members listen to winning scripts every month. Photo Courtesy of S& Co.

Scriptwriters & Co members listen to winning scripts every month. Photo Courtesy of S& Co.

Suzanna writes powerful relationship dramas and just finished a TV pilot for a series juxtaposing the work and home lives of colleagues in a company that markets sex toys. Alex specializes in stylish features with various screenplays optioned and works with production companies on adaptations of best-selling spy novels, sci-fi, and blockbusters. I caught up with Suzanna to get the lowdown.

How did all this start?

Fast, and with minimal planning! I was finishing a Scriptwriting Master’s and couldn’t find a local place to collaborate and network with other writers, actors, filmmakers, and theatre people. I decided to host a scriptwriting competition to kick things off, booked a large room in the beautiful city of Bath, auditioned actors, set up a Facebook page and website and publicized the first theme. It was scheduled for late March. Great timing…

Did the lockdown look like it would derail everything?

Just a bit! But I’d teamed up with Alex, and we’d had tons of entries. Of course, the winning writers wanted to hear their work performed so, in May, we pushed ahead with an online S&Co Scratch Night, to see if anyone turned up. More than 50 people did – and they loved it! We’d selected a nice balance of shorts – comedy, tragedy, romance, horror, fantasy – and everyone was entertained while they learned. The format worked, and the lovely messages we received afterwards were a joy and revelation!

Why Scratch Nights?

Listening to your work’s a great way of finding out what sings in tune and what's gone flat in your script. Our company of S&Co Actors have superb sight-reading skills, so writers hear their play or screenplay read aloud, then discussed by supportive audience members in a friendly, constructive environment. We select 8-10 scripts each month. You never know who might be listening, so writers and actors should treat it like a pitch or audition. You could get commissioned or cast.

Do only experienced writers see their submissions green lit?

Absolutely not. We receive submissions from first-timers as well as experienced professionals and give all of them equal attention. We assess every submission carefully, now assisted by Zizz Miranda, our undergrad intern. Of course, we love it when we read a polished, perfectly written piece – in fact, Alex gets very animated! But we balance this by championing raw talent, too. How else are they going to move forward? And it’s useful for the audience, too, because all comments, critiques, and suggestions help us improve our own work.

Do you have to be from the UK?

No, we’re truly international – it’s exciting and we love the cultural creative exchange! Our subscribers – including scriptwriters, playwrights, film producers, theatre directors, sound technicians, and performers – come from the U.K., U.S., all over continental Europe, India, Africa… even Australia and New Zealand, where writers join our evening events over breakfast! That said, all scripts do need to be in English.

How can screenwriters join in?

Submissions have to be emailed via the link on our website at Scriptwriters & Co. And there’s a vibrant Facebook group with members from all over the world, where people post on anything from loglines, plots, and venues to auditions, other scriptwriting competitions, and film festivals. 

Our subscribers get a heads-up about the new theme in our newsletters, and the next week it’s published on our website, where there’s a link to submit work. Writers who have their work green lit are invited to talk about their work to the audience at the event. So, they don’t just get laurels but valuable feedback.

So, what does the future look like?

Along with S&CO Scratch Nights, we now offer paid script consultancy, writing workshops, and recorded table reads. And be sure to get out newsletter because we’re currently organizing a global Scriptwriters & Co Scriptwriting Festival for 2021, where we’ll offer numerous categories for scripts of all lengths. Hey, I think that’s actually a scoop!

Final Opp… Stage 32 Free Contests

The final free screenwriter opp comes from Stage 32 or as they point out, “the world's largest social network and educational hub for film, television & digital creatives.” Every Friday in October at 12 p.m. PST, Stage 32 will host a FREE webcast to review submitted film and TV loglines from the “That’s A Movie” Logline Contest. 

Photo courtesy of Stage 32

Photo courtesy of Stage 32

While this contest submissions are closed, I caught up with Jason Mirch, Director of Script Services, to learn more about this and other free contests Stage 32 has going on.

The first webcast was a great insider look at which loglines resonated with different filmmakers. What can we expect in upcoming panels?

The first webcast panel featured filmmaker Doug Atchison (Akeelah And The Bee), Aimee Schoof (Tesla with Ethan Hawke), and Ken Korba Jr. from Universal Pictures. Expect more insiders like these and catch up on the winners on Stage 32.

How can writers sign-up to be alerted to any upcoming free Stage 32 contests?

The best way to stay up-to-date is to become a free member at Stage 32 and watch the site. Free contests are displayed prominently in banners on the page. They’re hard to miss, and we look forward to even more screenwriters participating in a full range of contests. We want to help everyone get pitch ready.

Free Submissions + Something for Every Screenwriter

From Six-Page Scripts podcast… to Scriptwriters & Co Scratch Nights… to Stage 32, we screenwriters can find our place at table reads all over the world and even test how good we are at pitching loglines and more.

Hopefully, the writing and collaboration provided by these three free screenwriting opportunities should help ride out the trying-est of times. Jump in and find your writing tribe!

More articles by Cheryl Laughlin

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