Judges, Gatekeepers & Independence
I entered one last screenwriting competition. I don’t even know why, what I hope to prove or accomplish. I just really feel like this script was a good one, and I can usually trust my instincts, but . . . Anyway, I e-mailed the competition to ask about the judges. The site says that key industry people (agents, producers) do the judging. But I’ve learned, after so many competitions, that this kind of statement can be misleading. So I asked whether the industry people read ALL the rounds or just pick the winners. And of course the answer is that the industry people only read the finalists. The competition’s “staff” does all the initial reading.
One has to wonder, then, who these staff members are and what qualifications they have. I don’t necessarily want to antagonize the competition’s organizers by e-mailing back and demanding to know. But to think whether I get my script in front of a major industry insider rests pretty much on whether one little underling likes what I wrote . . . But then again, it’s the same in any agency office: interns and assistants reading scripts and tossing aside the stuff they don’t like or don’t think (in what? their great experience and understanding of the market?) will sell. It’s all pretty stupid. And it’s one of the reasons a lot of bad movies, and a lot of the same kinds of movies, keep getting made.
I suppose gatekeeping is a problem in any creative industry where there is more material than money to publish or produce it all. Just as Hollywood producers and agencies haphazardly sort scripts, so do literary agents and publishers sort manuscripts. There’s this sort of arbitrariness to “worthy” versus “not worthy.” A crappy book by a bestselling author can get published, but a really great book by a no-name gets the boot. And so it goes.
I’m glad to have an outlet for my books. Indie publishing has certainly allowed me to find a kind of niche, an audience. If I had the money, I’d go make my little indie movie, too. But movies are still too expensive and labor intensive for me to do by myself. A writer can work alone, but a movie requires a crew. And even “cheap” ones cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce.
Still, it would be awesome to see my mental vision come to life. That’s why one writes plays and screenplays, after all. It’s like getting to play pretend with real people.
But I can’t say I hold out much hope for this competition. Given my past performance in such, the odds of finding a reader who likes and “gets” the stuff I write seems pretty small. And I could pay for “notes” but from whom? Some underling? It’s not worth the cost. I’m not above rewriting, learning, developing, but I’d like to know the teacher is someone who can honestly help me.
Meanwhile, I have two big projects facing me: a full-length play due at the beginning of October, plus I need to finish The K-Pro because I have a publisher waiting to read it. No promises in either case; I was “invited” to submit the play, but that doesn’t mean it will be selected for production, and just because someone wants to read my manuscript doesn’t mean they’ll want to publish it. I gotta stay realistic. But I also gotta keep moving.