Archives for category: Moondance International Film Festival

I’ve entered a lot of screenwriting competitions. So many in fact that I can’t say off the top of my head how many years I’ve been doing it. I actually got kind of addicted to it. It’s helpful to keep yourself setting and meeting goals, keeping up your A game, and with the right attitude it’s fun.

I’ve hit some pretty high highs, as far as advancing goes, with three dramas and a science fiction, all feature length. The dramas have all been Moondance finalists, one twice, and one was a semi-finalist. Two have made the top 25% of the Page Awards, while the science fiction one was a Page Awards quarter-finalist twice and a semi- finalist once. A drama made the top 10% of the Nicholl, the science fiction one the top 15%, and they have all had several variations of one and two positive reads. Not bad at all.

So why did I suddenly put a freeze on all competition entries this year? Under slightly different circumstances I’d call it competition fatigue, reached at last. Rejection fatigue certainly plays a part in it. Between this and fiction rejections, I have endured a near constant barrage for many years. There’s a lot to be said for what the human spirit rises to when properly motivated with a high enough reward potential dangled at the end of a long, rocky road. However, bluntly put, this human spirit is exhausted.

I’ve learned that endurance tests are not necessarily meant to be endured without pause virtually forever. It is perfectly acceptable at some point to break what you’ve seen as a never ending test of talent and character into separate phases of the same journey. Interstates have rest stops for a reason.Some people are good for the long, unbroken haul, no matter how long it takes. I was. But then life throws something in that makes you reevaluate, regroup, and sometimes replan.

Life threw my mother at me. She got Alzheimer’s. I got the responsibility of caring for her. Until you face it yourself, it’s impossible to grasp what that means. As the disease progresses, so does your role in your loved one’s life. Eventually becoming completely responsible for a beloved parent is life shattering. You have to dig deep and deeper, you change into a deeply mature adult, as they change back toward childhood. I became stronger than I was, more mature than I was capable of being, and learned that words like limits and strength and courage have no real meaning, because the meanings are redifined as time passes. Love becomes redifined as well, becoming the reason for everything. As difficult as it was, I would do it again, even knowing what I faced, because such a wonderful parent deserved the best possible wind down of her life, even held submerged in the depths of the weighted enemy called Alzheimer’s.

By the time she slipped away from both of our lives, on July 15, 2016, I was more exhausted than I would have thought possible. Even as I readjusted to being only responsible for myself, I missed her every day. I still do. I rest, I recover, and I’m just so glad that I got through it.

Somehow through it all I managed to write. Not prolifically. Not really steadily. But I wrote short fiction and I submitted it. This was my piece of myself that I retained throughout. I sold a story to Analog in time for my mom, my greatest support, to know and briefly understand. I continued to enter screenwriting competitions. Eventually I narrowed my focus to the Nicholl. I entered three screenplays a year. At least one would get a positive read every year, sometimes two, at times they all did at least some little miracle of a positive read or two, occasionally not so miraculous.

A couple of years ago, I checked email on my phone in a grocery store parking lot. Hammered, nearly in public, by three responses that were not as good as I’d hoped. Okay, expected. It had started to seem that I went backwards some years. Had for a while in other years, other competitions. That was when the need for the symbolic rest area became undeniable. I entered three again last year and only one got anywhere at all, with two positive reads.

Backwards.

I don’t understand how levels of success can fluctuate so widely, from competition to competition, from year to year. It seems to be, loosely put, the nature of the game. That’s okay. I know I’m not alone in it and that I’m very fortunate to consistently do so well, for so long.

I also know that I needed a break. The moments of opening competition results emails, followed by the jolts of recognition that nothing big was happening for another year needed to be followed by a break from said moments and jolts. The realization that the sheer joy of knowing a screenplay I’d written, a story I’d told, had received two positive reads in the most prestigious, highly competitive arena in screenwritingland was overshadowed by the disappointment over the two that received none. Even though they’d gotten notice several other times. I wasn’t fun anymore. It was painful.

Somehow, stepping back for a year was the right thing to do. It lowered my stress level. It gave me a measure of peace, turning the leadup to the results announcements away from dread to a space of peace. As the time to start thinking about 2019 entries approaches, I’m doing just that. I’m not sure the fun will fully be back in the game. After going through such a life altering experience as being an Alzheimer’s caregiver, a new gravity settles over my life. It’s not always at the surface, but it colors the way I consider everything. All I can do is enjoy testing myself as much as possible, while I hope.

I can’t help but remember how much my mom loved movies, when they were coming of age together. She would be so proud if my name someday appears on that beloved silver screen. The thing about wonderful mothers, though…she would be just as proud of me if that never happens.

So, onward. Above and beyond, always…with necessary rest stops on the way toward the stars.

After several years of being kept from entering the Academy Nicholl Fellowships In Screenwriting Competition by technical problems, I am finally back in this prestigious competition. In the meantime I entered the Moondance International Film Festival Screenwriting Competition and did well, with four Feature Length Drama Finalists (three scripts once each and one twice) and a Semi-Finalist. I also entered the Page Awards and did well there as well, with a science fiction feature length drama that was a Semi-Finalist once and a Quarter Finalist twice. Two dramas also advanced to the top 25%. It seems that last year they didn’t send out top 25% emails, so I don’t know if the one that was last year’s Moondance Finalist advanced at all in Page.

That kind of thing is frustrating and the main reason I decided to put all my eggs in one basket this year, as it were. Knowing those other scripts made at least the Page top 25% out of thousands of entries helped me a lot to gauge how I’ve been doing in the constant quest to learn to write screenplays. Without at least that potential indicator, plus the way my sf one inexplicably started moving backward from Semi, I decided it was time for me to give it a rest.

The decision to not enter the
Moodance again this year was more complicated. And difficult. It would be very easy to just keep entering and keep hoping (almost expecting) to make at least Semi and probably Finalist. Doing so well for so long is very gratifying. It also became a little frustrating. I started to wonder if there could be some little something about my writing not quite in keeping with that competition that would keep me from ever winning.

I like to challenge myself periodically. The challenge here was whether I could scrape up the guts to leave what has become something of a comfort zone and challenge myself emotionally. It was hard, but I eventually decided that for this year at least, I’ll be happiest making myself miserable wondering what on earth I’m thinking by entering the Nicholl’s three script yearly limit, instead of any of the other competitions.

Since I’ve reached the top 10% (drama) and top 15% (science fiction) of the Nicholl in the past, it’s not an entirely foolhardy move. Now that all three of my entries have been officially confirmed, only in August, when the emails from the Academy (Yes, that Academy runs the Nicholl) Foundation have come in, will I be able to say how good an idea it was to put so much of my work up at once for consideration for a coveted Nicholl Fellowship. All I know right now is that it was the choice that made me feel the best. That’s a kind of winning in itself.

2013 Moondance Laurels Duo

When I decided to enter two feature length screenplays in the 2013 Moondance International Film Festival Screenwriting Competition, I felt it might be too much to hope that both would gain recognition by this respected competition. But, of course, I hoped anyway. After the long wait for judging to be completed and the announcement to be made, I was rewarded when one was chosen a Finalist and the other a Semi-Finalist. My philosophy has always been to aim high, hope for the moon, and dare to dream. It’s not always easy. Disappointments come embedded in any creative life, and they can hit hard. However, they can be countered with gratifying triumphs that fuel those aims and hopes and dreams.

I am thrilled to have earned these laurels for my 2013 Moondance Feature Drama Finalist and 2013 Moondance Feature Drama Semi-Finalist.

I had two entries in this year’s Moondance International Film Festival Screenwriting Competition. It’s the first time I’ve entered two scripts, and it seemed a bit much to hope that they would both place. No matter how much I believe in myself as a writer, I’ve learned that expecting too much can make the inevitable disappointments harder to take.

No worries about all that angsty stuff this time, though. I just found out that one drama was chosen to be a Feature Screenplay Finalist. The other drama was chosen to be a Feature Screenplay Semifinalist.

I really enjoy the challenge of writing feature length screenplays. It’s like no other form of writing, with its precise formatting and compressed style.

The one that made Finalist underwent a pretty extensive rewrite right before they were open for submissions last fall. I’ve discovered that screenwriting is an ongoing experience of learning, growing, and applying that new knowledge and growth to continual efforts to improve a project…no matter how finished it feels. Having the effort I put into it  rewarded with recognition by respected competitions always spurs me on to reach for that next bit of improvement. It’s like a game that never ends, and the prize is the way I feel right now.

Just now found out this image was available to me and wanted to take the opportunity to express my happiness again about being a Moondance Finalist for the third time.

image

I’m very proud of my feature length
drama screenplay that was chosen a 2012 Moondance Finalist. It’s a story that started out as something else, then went sideways on me and gave me characters that touched my heart as I wrote it from there.

Stories, whether for screen or page,do that to me a lot. Change, shift, morph into finished products that are better and more fulfilling than what it was I originally thought I was writing. Apparently, my brain is very good at subconscious compartmentalizing. I love it that way. It keeps me challenged and excited as new pages are added and the story unfolds.

I wish I could go into detail about these special characters and their story, but since I enter blind competitions I need to play it all close to the vest. Hopefully, someday they’ll show up larger than life on a big screen near us all.

Another screenwriting competition results announcement season is over for me. I ended this one on a high note, with the news that my drama feature screenplay entry advanced all the way to Finalist in the 2012 Moondance International Film Festival. That’s my third time as a Moondance Finalist, which is very encouraging.

I love writing screenplays and it means a lot to know that others find so much merit in my storytelling, especially within such structured formatting. It’s not always easy, but it’s very rewarding as a writer every time.

With the excessive heat I’m in the dog days of summer with everyone else, but I also get the bonus round– screenwriting competition results season. It starts in July for me this year, with the Page Awards. They roll out advancement announcements starting with the entriries moving to the Second Round, then a step per month until the winners are announced at the end of a nailbiting summer.

It can always go any way, for any writer. My first Page year was 2010. The drama I entered advanced to the Second Round and that was as far as it got. Last year I entered two. That same drama advanced to the Second Round again. It stopped there again. It’s done much, much better in other competitions, but that’s the way it can go. And often does.

The second entry? That one went all the way to Semi-final. It had only previously made it to the top 15% of the Nicholls. The one that stopped at Page Second Round twice? It had previously made the top 10% of the Nicholls and did well in other competitions.

This time I’ve entered two screenplays in the Page Awards. I also have an entry in the Moondance International Screenwriting Competition this year. They’ve been announcing all levels at once around the end of summer. A long wait that can be worth it. Two of my screenplays have been Moondance Finalists.

Yes, I have several completed feature length specs. It’s a good idea to in general, and I also really enjoy writing them.

Sure, even being a finalist in a prestigious competition isn’t as good as winning and all the almosts in the world don’t get you a fistful of dollars, but every triumph, every small step forward provides enough encouragement to help keep me going. For another day, another year, another competition that just might be the one. I’ll never know if I don’t take those chances, roll those dice, gamble that one more entry fee may take home the prize.

Is it always easy? Of course not. Will believing in yourself that much always make you happy? No. Some days it will make you cry. But should you give up if the answer seems too often “almost”. Absolutely not. I’ve read that a lot of people who win had several Semis and Finalists under their belt first. Does that make me believe I will win to the point of delusion? ‘Fraid not. It does convince me it’s darned well possible. And “possible” is the stuff hopes and dreams and, for the truly lucky ones, success are built on.