A screenwriter’s 5 stages of grief (contest edition)

Five minutes later, he was fine
Any contest email that includes the word “unfortunately” is probably not good

Ah, the screenwriting contest. There are so many out there, and may be the key to breaking in and starting a career.

Once you decide to take the plunge and submit, your brain fills up with visions of your script claiming first prize and all the goodies that come with it – cash and prizes, prestige, connections.

But the sad truth really is that while many will enter, only a select few will win. The odds are already against you, so you do the best you can.

Then the announcement comes, and you’re not on that list. How do you handle it?

1. DENIAL

This can’t be right. My script should be right there. Something must be wrong. Wait. Maybe I just didn’t see it. Let me look again. Are these listed by author’s first name, last name, or by title? Why am I not seeing it? Maybe they just forgot to include me. That happens, right?

2. ANGER

Aaugh! I can’t believe I didn’t make it! All that hard work shot straight to hell! How could they not like this? I’m never entering another contest again!

3. BARGAINING

Please let this be a mistake. I promise I’ll try harder and do better next time.

4. DEPRESSION

I’m the worst writer ever. I’ve got no talent. They probably read this and laughed their heads off at how bad it was. How could I even think I had a shot at this? Why did I even bother? I should just give up now.

5. ACCEPTANCE

It’s all subjective. You never know what someone going’s to like or not like. Maybe the script wasn’t as perfect as I thought. I should probably work on it some more, maybe even shell out the bucks for some professional feedback. It’s not like this is the only contest out there, and there’s always next year.

So what now?

After a little self-comforting (maybe with your preferred substance of choice), you sit yourself down and get right back to work.

*Full disclosure – This is similar to what I recently went through after the results of the Nashville Screenwriting Contest were announced. My script didn’t make it past the first round. Naturally, I was disappointed, but feel better now and am even more committed to writing kickass material. Thanks for asking.

7 thoughts on “A screenwriter’s 5 stages of grief (contest edition)

    • Aw, thanks! I appreciate it.

      I considered putting a mention/rant about spending money under the ‘anger’ stage, but decided that would seem petty (as opposed to griping about everything else).

  1. I just entered 5 contests and 1 film festival for the very first time. The film festival has two of my scripts in the finals. I was so excited I almost peed myself. But, the waiting for the other ones are a pain. One of them was Nicholl. This goody too shoes contest (as I hear people say) and I joined it. Nervous as hell but excited for the experience. Keep writing kick ass material. I know I am.

  2. You can’t get bogged down in rejection, from one avenue or another. There’s too much of it in this line of work. Like the Eagles said, “Get over it.”

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