Are the screenwriting contests a waste of time and money? —Mack V.
Most of them are, as they are designed as profit-making ventures. So if you're going to enter contests, I'd stick to the ones that the industry actually pays some attention to. Here's the three I'd target:
The Nicholl Screenwriting Contest
The Austin Screenplay and Teleplay Competition
Final Draft's Big Break Screenwriting Contest
And if your writing has an indie bent, you may also want to submit to the Sundance Screenwriters Lab and Film Independent's Screenwriting Lab.
(Full disclosure: I [Corey] have ties to both Final Draft, which sponsors my Professional Screenwriting Workshops, and the Film Independent Screenwriting Lab, for which I serve as a mentor. Regardless, I would whole-heartedly recommend their excellent programs. Okay, enough with the disclosures.)
How old is too old to break into the business? —Lou W.
You won't be submitting a photo or bio with your script so it's doubtful anyone will know your age. They'll only know how good your script is or isn't. One of my script coaching clients, a 57-year-old South African woman, just sold her first two spec pilots. David Seidler was in his late 60s when he wrote The Kings Speech. Alvin Sargent was in his 70s when he wrote Spiderman. Being too old is never the reason someone doesn't have a career, it is only the excuse.
What's the biggest mistake you see new writers making? —Laura F.
Following the "rules". There's a growing chorus of experts telling writers what they need to do to break into the business, what kinds of scripts they need to write, how they should write them, and what has to happen on what page.
So what is the one thing almost all these experts all have in common? They have never actually had a writing career. In fact, many of them tried to break into the business and failed. Now they make their living telling everyone else how to break into the business.
Corey Mandell | Professional Screenwriting Workshops
310-243-6758 | Hermosa Beach, California, USAcorey@coreymandell.net | http://coreymandell.net On facebook: http://bit.ly/coreyfanpage