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  Winning the Script Contest Game!
An Interview with Popular Script Coach -- Kate Wright

Copyright 2002, Script Market News

Kate Wright teaches screenwriting at UCLA  Extension -- America's #1 choice for screenwriting instruction. Her most popular courses are Writing The Million Dollar Screenplay and Script Doctoring: Rewriting For Production.

Many of Kate's students have won or been finalists in top screenwriting competitions like the Diane Thomas and the Nicholls Fellowship from the Motion Picture Academy. This interview provides insight into the process of preparing a script for a major screenplay competition.

SCRIPT MARKET NEWS: Kate, how can I impress the judges in a screenplay competition?

KATE WRIGHT: This question speaks to the mindset and criteria of the judging panel. There is only one way to impress the judges -- by submitting an original and compelling screenplay.

By ORIGINAL I mean something we have never seen and heard before.  In feature films, this means taking us to an exciting World Where the Story Takes Place.
~ In TITANIC, it's the unsinkable "Ship of Dreams" where the passengers are faced with imminent disaster and the moment of death. 

~ In JURASSIC PARK, it's the dinosaur park where the dinosaurs seek revenge against the false pride of man. 

Compelling means creating a Dramatic Situation for the Lead Character.  The judges are looking for one main character who is faced with a moral dilemma that can resonate and resolve itself throughout the entire movie.  Also, keep in mind that in movies -- as opposed to television -- we have never met the lead character before, so it's important to create his or her internal state of mind.

By the way, execution is the third criteria.  This refers to the ability to Create the Story and Tell the Story.  When all scripts are equal, the most ORIGINAL script wins.

SCRIPT MARKET NEWS: Could you give us a quick overview of the top competitions?

KATE WRIGHT: The two top competitions are UCLA's Diane Thomas Competition and the Nicholls competition, which is sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Diane Thomas, who wrote ROMANCING THE STONE at UCLA, died in a car accident shortly after becoming a major screenwriter.   This prestigious award was
established in her name by Steven Spielberg in association with UCLA - which is #1 in screenwriting.  Even those who place in this contest get agents, jobs, and sales.

Nicholls is open to everyone, and has thousands of entrants from all over the globe.  Placing in the Nicholls is a tremendous accomplishment.

Other prestigious contests which offer opportunities and contacts include: The Disney Fellowship (great for second career people because it offers a year's salary); The Set in Philadelphia Contest (money and contacts); Chesterfield; Warner Bros.; Scriptwriters Network; Slamdance.

Recognition from any of these top contests is great recognition!

SCRIPT MARKET NEWS: How does a Script Coach work with a preprofessional to prepare for a competition?

KATE WRIGHT: First of all, by helping to choose the most "original" project.  This is an exciting process, with a lot of give and take. Then the work begins: 

-> Is there a strong lead character? 
-> Is the dramatic situation compelling enough? 
-> Is the moral dilemma worthy of the story idea? 
-> What is the story?  Is there enough complication? 
-> Is the World Where the Story Takes Place exciting? 
-> Is this World fully established? 
-> What is the Story about? 
-> Are we making the most of this story?  
-> What are the IDEAS BEHIND this Story? 
-> Is there ONE IDEA behind this story? 
-> What is this story really about? 

The Script Coaches challenges the writer to new levels.

SCRIPT MARKET NEWS: You sound like a real taskmaster for Story!

KATE WRIGHT: People tell me I'm tough.  I can teach craft and structure, and I can challenge people to think, but they have to want to learn to think about their story, they have to want to challenge themselves within their story, with both vertical thinking (what we learn in school) and horizontal thinking (what we learn in life). 

SCRIPT MARKET NEWS: Could you give us a few examples of pre-professionals you have worked with?

KATE WRIGHT: My student who won First Place in the UCLA Diane Thomas Contest this year took my UCLA course twice, and worked with me privately on three different scripts, including another which placed in the Nicholls contest. By the way, he's an English professor who thought it was going to be easy, but it took him about three years.

Another Diane Thomas finalist I worked with was a top economist from Sweden before he came to UCLA.  He's a visualist with an outstanding ability to think and create solutions. I am certain his film will get made.

One of my younger students came to me after earning an MFA from NYU.  He didn't place in the script contests -- but guess what -- he sold the screenplay.  And wrote me a thank-you note!

Another client persevered for two years with a difficult script and placed in the Nicholls.  She's a mother of four who directed animated shorts.  She has so many fine qualities as a writer, she should be working with a major director in quality control.

SCRIPT MARKET NEWS: What are the most common setbacks and challenges?

KATE WRIGHT: Moving into the abstract realm is the test.  Most pre-professionals have a fairly original concept, a strong lead character, and a pretty good sense of narrative, but they don't have a feeling about where to go with the story, and how to get there, so I try to lead them.

The abstract realm is where they quietly cave or make a breakthrough.  Those that make the breakthrough say I'm the toughest!  What they mean is rigorous.

SCRIPT MARKET NEWS: What do you mean by the abstract realm?

KATE WRIGHT: Behind every great story there are opposing elements of human nature and interesting psychological underpinnings, but there are also philosophical ideas, mysteries, and secrets about the human condition.  We are in the business of discovering secrets.

SCRIPT MARKET NEWS: What about beginners?  How does a Script Coach work with someone just starting out?

KATE WRIGHT: By understanding their mindset, abilities, and experiences.  Most people come to screenwriting with a story to tell, but aren't sure how to do it.  The next step is guide them through narrative, story, and craft.  Then, after they understand the concrete paradigms of narrative, story, and structure, I take them into the abstract realm, just to see if they enjoy being out there on a limb with people like Tennessee Williams and Jason Miller.

SCRIPT MARKET NEWS: How do they like it? 

KATE WRIGHT: Most people make a U-turn back to narrative!  It's scary out there.

SCRIPT MARKET NEWS: Any final words of advice?

KATE WRIGHT: When it comes to screenwriting, everybody has something to learn -- even professionals -- because we all have to learn the same things… in different order.  Be bold.  Don't be afraid of failing.  Take the risk.  That's the only way you can win!

For details on private script coaching contact Script Coach Kate Wright by email =>

More Script Coach Tips =>

Lenore Wright has 15 years experience writing and selling screenplays in Los
Angeles and New York. For free marketing tips and tools SUBSCRIBE to her
newsletter Script Market News by sending a blank email to
newsletter@breakingin.net or visit her Website www.breakingin.net/

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