My Students Take 50% of the Wins!
Of the ten winners from a Place Called Sacramento Screenwriting competition, half of them came from my recent screenwriting class. The winners were announced last week, and though I knew of two, I hadn’t heard about the rest. I was floored. Several students that I know submitted, but weren’t selected, had very strong scripts as well. I have a feeling the judges had a hard time making the final choices.
Speaking to several students after the announcements, the one thing the few who weren’t selected kept asking was.. WHY? What was wrong with my script?
One student even called it his ‘rejected’ script.
That’s harsh. And unnecessary. The scripts that didn’t make it in weren’t ‘rejects’, they just weren’t selected.
We have to remember that human beings make the choices, and human beings are absolutely biased, even when they try not to be. We have different standards. Different likes. Different tastes. We all look at life differently. We look at scripts differently. Some of us are harsher, more critical. Some of us overlook little things. Some of can’t let anything go.
A college English teacher would mark us down a full letter grade if she found any misspellings or errors on a paper. One misspelled word. One letter grade. That’s freaking harsh. I stressed more about typos and bad commas in her class than any other time in my life. Misspellings don’t send me over the deep end when I see them in scripts. It’s not my thing. I’m more concerned with story and overall flow. But I’m incredibly critical when it comes to story and flow. And you should be as well.
So, when my student/friend called his script a ‘reject’ I remembered how hard we are on ourselves and how disappointing it feels when we’re not selected. It feels like rejection. And to those highly critical people, it is rejection. But it needs to be put in check.
Script competitions, like any other competition, are hard. You don’t know who you’re up against. You don’t know what other stories are coming down the pipeline. You don’t know how they’re written. You don’t know if the people reading your script will get your writing style. You don’t know if they’ll like your story. You don’t know if they’ll get all bent out of shape over a misspelled word. You don’t what other types of stories might get selected and you certainly don’t know what the judges ate for breakfast.
What? Who cares what the judges ate for breakfast? Nobody cares, as long as it’s not bothering them now. You see, you just don’t know what is going to make someone react at any time.
There is so much you cannot control. Screenwriting competitions are a lot like job interviews — and you just don’t know who is going to show up that day and upset the balance.
The only things you have control over are doing your best and not getting attached to the outcome. Doing your best comes with practice, patience and learning. Detaching from the outcome takes practice, patience and learning. Neither of these things are easy to attain.
During my class I worked with my students on their scripts, and I even offered to read their scripts and give them feedback before submitting. Some took my notes more to heart than the others. Some worked really hard. Some had more experience and understood screenwriting in a different way. But I was honest in my feedback and I tried to offer them the feedback that I thought would make their story more powerful.
At the end of the day, I believe eight of my students submitted, so I’m pretty dang proud of the class and what they accomplished.