Did you know? This week is the deadline for the UCLA Extension Screenplay Competition: March 25 at 4pm. It’s exciting to see so many entries come into the office and to watch as the pile of scripts gets higher and higher on the desk of Screenwriting Assistant Chae Ko.
What is the UCLA Extension Screenplay Competition? It’s an exclusive opportunity for Writers’ Program screenwriting students to gain important industry exposure—and when we say it’s exclusive for our students, we mean it. Only students who have taken three full-length courses in the past two years are qualified to enter.
The importance of screenplay competitions should not be underestimated. As a mentor to many Screenplay Competition finalists, Paula Cizmar has these wise words about the tough-love industry. “It’s next to impossible for writers to get any attention. When you place as a finalist in a competition, though, you suddenly have an opportunity to communicate some good news to these gatekeepers; suddenly there’s something to say in your query letter that makes you stand out.”
Last year’s submissions brought us everything from historical dramas to bloody thrillers, so we can’t wait to see what our students will submit this year. As a side note, last year our prestigious industry judges said that the level of writing in all three finalists’ work was very high, higher than they’d ever seen before. Wow! It’s all about the writing, right? And to see it from the industry’s point of view, Paula points out, “Industry people are always looking for new work and the next new, exciting writer—but they don’t want to wade through tons of pages of material to find them. When you place as a finalist in a competition, though, there’s a reason for someone to actually want to read your script.”
Some big names in the industry have a UCLA Extension Screenplay Competition placement under their belt. Academy Award winner, Gavin Hood (Tsotsi, Rendition) placed 3rd in 1992 for his script “A Reasonable Man.” Stuart Beattie (Australia, Collateral, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl), won first place in 1993 for his script, “Mayday.”
The competition offers three finalists the chance to work one-on-one with experienced Writers’ Program instructors (who are working professionals) and get critical feedback BEFORE the final drafts are sent to the industry judges. That’s pretty nice, eh? And to top it off, we award cash prizes and send the winners’ names out to managers, agents, and producers.
So, if you think you qualify or have questions, contact us now. This could be your big break! Don’t take our word for it. According to Paula, “Placing in a competition gives the writer a leg up; agents and producers know the script has been kind of “pre-screened,” vetted by the competition judges. And they want to see what the excitement is about.”
It’s a win-win. So, put the finishing touching on your screenplay and get it in before the deadline. You’ll be glad you did.
Gabrielle Stephens is the Program Representative in Screenwriting (Onsite).