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Panel: Why Screenwriting Competitions Matter

By January 20, 2018 No Comments

Past ScreenCraft winners Aaron Steven, Kenlon Clark, Rowan Wheeler and Sam Laskey, whose careers are steadily emerging, got together for a roundtable discussion late last year and we recorded it! John Rhodes, Co-Founder of ScreenCraft, moderates as the group covers the importance of screenwriting competitions and why going all-in matters. As someone wise once said, “You can’t teach passion.”

The panelists share what they’ve done and the steps they’ve taken to pave the way for the professional momentum they have garnered so far as emerging screenwriters in the industry. Want to know how to make your own luck? Kenlon Clark, who also directs and edits, starts the conversation by saying, “It’s definitely an industry that requires a lot of self-motivation.”

Rowan Wheeler joins in by confirming, “You have to be super proactive. You can’t expect anything to happen unless you’re making it happen.”

Continuing the conversation by talking about how screenwriting competition wins have been influential in getting their careers momentum, Aaron Steven points out that, “It’s all about the all-important introduction … crucial moments where you want to take advantage of the heat that a contest win can do for you.” He goes on to emphasize the importance of having other scripts under your belt. “Just have ideas that you are passionate about, that you know you can talk about at any given time and that you think you can develop with a manager, with an agent, with a producer, because ultimately we’re judged on our ideas… and writing one great script that can open a door for you, can do just that… it can open the door for you, and it’s still on you to push through the door and really take advantage of it.”

And while we’re on the topic of momentum, it’s worth noting the successes of these writers thus far. Aaron Steven, a former assistant at Marvel, was at Kaplan/Perrone and is now signed at Management 360, with projects in active development. Kenlon Clark also won WeScreenplay’s Feature Contest and signed with Believeland Management. Rowan Wheeler, who also won Tracking Board and Final Draft competitions, signed with ONE Entertainment and won an Emmy! Sam Laskey is repped at Circle of Confusion.

Making sure that everyone understands that there are, as John Rhodes puts it, “dubious scams”  out there, he asks the panelists what their trusted competitions are. The list includes Nicholl, ScreenCraft, Final Draft, WeScreenplay and more. Sam Laskey confirms, “It needs to have a track record. You need to look and say, “Okay, the previous winner of this contest got signed by an agent or a manager, they sold their spec, they have stuff in development… Has this launched peoples careers in the past? Because, you know, like you said, there are a lot of fly-by-night film festivals and screenplay competitions that started last week that have never signed anyone, never given anyone exposure, and they just want your $50 entry fee.”

Kenlon Clark praises, “Winning ScreenCraft, the Bootleg Universe contest, it was definitely a unique experience as well, in terms of being able to produce the short script that I wrote, so I’ve been spending some time working on that and I’ve been able to, because of my background, also direct it and edit it and shoot it, and do all the things involved with it. As a result of that and also winning the WeScreenplay contest, I was able to get signed by a manager.”

Fair warning: the stories and advice shared at this roundtable will more than likely motivate you to get back to work. So grab a snack and watch, because once you’re finished, you probably won’t be able to stop thinking about your next project.

See the full video below.

Where they’ve gotten so far is already inspiring, but the most exciting parts lie ahead. We’re excited to follow these screenwriters on their journey.

From Left to Right:
Aaron Steven — Runner-up, ScreenCraft’s 2014 Action Thriller Contest
Kenlon Clark — Winner, Bootleg Universe Adi Shankar ScreenCraft Contest
John Rhodes — Moderator, Co-Founder of ScreenCraft
Rowan Wheeler — Winner, ScreenCraft’s 2015 Pilot Launch Script Contest
Sam Laskey — Winner, ScreenCraft’s 2016 Comedy Contest


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