Archives for posts with tag: Page Awards

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.

This year the Nicholl initial results weren’t quite as early as last year, but the timing was both good and bad for me. The emails came four hours after I got home from my mom’s funeral, which made the fact that my science fiction entry got absolutely nowhere not be as upsetting as it would have been at another time. After the initial shock of disappointment, I really didn’t care too much. Beyond the timing, it was the first time any of my screenplays hadn’t received at least one positive score since I started entering the Nicholl again a few years ago and the sf one has been a Page Awards Semi-Finalist once and Quarter Finalist twice, so it’s not like I don’t have plenty of proof that it’s good. It’s just the capricious nature of subjectivity and individual reader’s taste. Not that I’m happy to have had it bomb out, but other things have taken precedent over such concerns this year.

My other two entries made up for it, for the most part. In keeping with that capricious thing, the drama that got one positive score last year got two this year and the one that got two last year got one this year. This kind of thing can drive you bonkers, if you let it. Not letting it can be a struggle, but if you can remember the bits about subjectivity and individual taste it gets easier. With the Nicholl in particular, it helps profoundly to keep always at the front of your mind that out of the 2016 competition’s 6,915 entries, only 357 made QF. With those kind of odds in the most prestigious competition of them all, I’m really, really pleased with the positive scores I got again this year.

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.

I’m happy to announce that today I learned that I’m a 2013 Page International Screenwriting Awards Quarter-Finalist!  It’s very gratifying to have reached the top 10%, in this highly respected, fierce competition. I’ll find out if I advance to Semi-Finalist on August 15th.

I didn’t advance to the Page Awards Semi-finals. This is the same screenplay that was a Page Awards Semi-finalist last year.

I don’t understand this kind of thing, and I don’t feel snappy-brained enough at the moment to dig deeper. Being sick for a week certainty dulls down a person’s analytical abilities.  Makes disappointment less disappointing too.

For the moment…. Crushed? Absolutely. Somewhere on the sliding scale between Coarsely Ground and Finely Pulverized. Don’t worry, the extreme end on the Crushinator’s (Futurama references cheer me up) Crush-O-Meter is Liquifacation, and that requires Super Fund like cleanup, involving unicorns, rainbows, and enough chocolate to cause a minor shortage crisis among the obscure Godiva tribe of East Upper West Chocophyladelphia. I’m nowhere near that. I wouldn’t mind some Godiva Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate right about now, though…salted caramel toffee…mmmm…oops, mixing my Matt Groeningisms. Time to go drink some juice and hope I don’t have a fever dream about the Crushinator and Homer Simpson.

And this, my friends, is why I try not to write fiction when I am sick. It’s no time to attempt to introduce a new sub, sub, sub genre: Slipstream Mashup Tangential Word Black Hole.

Goodnight.

No matter how well I try to prepare myself for getting screenwriting competition announcement emails, I always approach those long lists of names with a bizarre combination of anticipation and dread. Will I be there? What if I’m not? Myriad questions race through my mind, even as I comb the list in search of my name. Sometimes I’d swear I’m actually holding my breath and breathing rapidly…at the same time.

One of the screenplays I entered fell early into alphabetical listing, so I went there first. It wasn’t there. I’m extremely disappointed, but I also know it’s a wonderful story (hey, belief in the work you love is a vital part of persevering in such a competitive field)

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After half looking forward to and half dreading the advance to the Second Round announcement for this year’s Page Awards, I was distracted when it actually came. So the thrill had an added measure of surprise that borders on shock. In a good way, of course.

Both my entries made it to the Second Round! This is approximayely the top 25% of thousands of scripts, so it’s an accomplishment in itself.  One…make that two…I’m very proud of.

The Quarter Finalists announcement comes on the 15th, which doesn’t leave much time to build up an excessive head of anxiety. Not that excessive anxiety is a goal. More a hazard of the writing life, particularly when you put what you’ve created out into the world to be embraced or trampled on. Don’t let anybody kid you that that part is fun. Well, the embraced part is…trampled on not so much.

The next level, like them all, can go either way. That means get every bit of thrill possible out of each step that spawns smiles. Sometimes that has to carry you over another long, cold winter.  But sometimes…sometimes it’s just the beginning.