After placing as the one hour runner up in the 2019 ScreenCraft Pilot Launch TV Script Contest with his pilot LOST IN THE FLOOD, Sean Collins-Smith signed with manager, Luke Maxwell, at 3 Arts Entertainment. We sat down with Sean to ask some questions about his experience as an emerging professional screenwriter so far:
Where were you as a writer before entering?
Before entering, I was 3,000 miles away from anyone in Los Angeles who could help me get my foot in the door. I had no access and no affirmation that what I was writing was good, let alone good enough to get me representation. At that point, I was living in Richmond, Virginia. I was a journalism professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, and did some freelancing for the NBC affiliate in town, as well. I'd write pilot scripts in my spare time in the back of news vans and in my office at VCU.
How did you feel about competitions BEFORE placing?
Truth be told, I didn’t have any opinion of them whatsoever. I viewed them as a possible avenue to get some traction in an industry I knew next to nothing about. After doing some research, I found a few competitions that seemed to be reputable.
What changed for you after getting some wins?
So much changed! I can say, with 100% honesty, that my entire life changed after winning. Before winning, I was in Richmond, Virginia. Next thing I knew, I was taking generals at all these companies I would’ve never dreamed of stepping foot into – Bad Robot, Scott Free, Appian Way. None of that would’ve happened without winning.Now that I've signed with 3Arts, I can safely say that wouldn't have happened without screenwriting contests.
What would you say to somebody on the fence about using competitions as a mechanism to break in?
I’d say as with anything in life, you need to do some research, get educated, and proceed with both caution and moderation. There’s a sense from some that the contest route is a cottage industry, a gimmick to get as much money from you as possible. I’d say that’s partially true – there are a whole gaggle of insincere and wasteful contests who only exist to stroke your ego and deprive you of your hard-earned money. However, there are a select few who strive to get you access to the mechanisms, managers, agents and execs who can help you achieve your goals. Those are the ones you need to focus on.
Any words of inspiration or advice you wish someone had given you?
Write the thing you wish already existed! I’ve always tried to write things I think haven’t been done, or with plots that would get me excited if I heard about it.
In addition to that, always take your time when making big decisions – about moving to a new town, about who to sign with, about which projects to tackle next. There’s always a palpable sense of excitement when an opportunity arises, and it’s almost immediately followed by a palpable sense of fear. Fear that maybe you aren’t ready, or that if you take too much time to think about it, the opportunity will pass you by. But I’ll tell you this: if someone is considering you for something, there is never any harm in waiting an extra day or two.
And, finally, find your group of trusted writer/reader friends who you seek feedback from on a daily basis. They can be a variety. I have 10-12 people I trust to read my work before I officially submit it to anyone, and they run the gamut: some are in the industry, some aren't. Some have never written a script in their lives. Two are novelists. One works in marketing on the east coast. Another was an editor on an Oscar-nominated film. Find - your - group!
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