By Jonny King | Feature Screenplay Contest Second Place Winner
I can’t believe it, looking back, but for some time I actually didn’t bother with screenwriting contests. I’d seen people disparage them online, claiming that they were just money-making exercises that didn’t actually help writers advance their careers. Obviously, I now know you should never listen to self-appointed experts on social media, but these were simpler times.
Having written my first script, Land’s End, I spent a couple of years trying to find a door into the industry that someone had carelessly left ajar. Unable to find one, I eventually decided to throw caution to the wind and try a few competitions.
I did a bit of research, compiled a list of the ten best screenplay contests (which included Shore Scripts – obvs!), and entered all of them. I thought if I could somehow reach the quarter-finals or maybe even the semi-finals of just one of them, then maybe I could catch the eye of an agent or a producer with exceptionally low standards.
It didn’t get off to a particularly good start. As the first few competitions announced their quarter-finalists, I scoured the lists of names, desperately searching for mine, but in each case, Land’s End hadn’t made it past the first read stage. As the year went on, this, along with the usual disappointments and rejections with other projects, became increasingly demoralizing.
Then, just when I was at my lowest ebb, I received an email telling me Land’s End was a quarterfinalist in the Shore Scripts Feature Contest.
I can’t describe what a huge boost this was. Over the months, I had lost a lot of confidence – both in the script and in my ability as a writer. I thought I had something with Land’s End, but with each disappointment, I’d been starting to accept that maybe no one else agreed.
“Now, suddenly, I had confirmation that someone, somewhere, thought I’d written a good script. It was only the quarter-finals, but I was absolutely delirious and got a bottle of prosecco to celebrate.”
I didn’t think I’d go any further in the contest, but, no matter what, I had that all-important, confidence-boosting email – printed out and propped up on my desk, telling me I was on the right track after all.
A month later, I got another email telling me I was through to the semi-finals, and one a few weeks after that, telling me I was a finalist. At each stage of the contest, I readied myself for the news that my luck had finally run out, but somehow Land’s End clung on.
Then, on the 25th of November 2019, after 45 minutes of continuously refreshing my emails, I received the news that, out of the hundreds of scripts entered into that year’s competition, mine had been chosen as one of the 5 winners in the feature category. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life. I phoned my wife to tell her and we both had a bit of a cry.
The next couple of months were something of a whirlwind. Shore Scripts kept in regular contact with me, as they began to send Land’s End out to various agents, producers, and directors on their roster.
By the beginning of 2020, they had set up introductions with two different directors who were interested in my script, which was both great and absolutely awful, as it slowly dawned on me that this meant I was going to have to say no to one of them.
“Shore Scripts helped and supported me through the tough decision and I finally signed a shopping agreement with Emmy Award-winning director Ben Tricklebank.”
Unfortunately, you don’t need me to tell you what happened next, as the world ground to a halt, throwing everything, including the film industry, into disarray. However, Shore Scripts continued to guide me through the development process, as Ben and I had regular chats to set out our plan for Land’s End.
As things gradually began to take shape, producer Theresa Larché came on board, bringing in Starcross Entertainment as Executive Producers, and in September 2020, I signed an option agreement with them. Since then, we’ve been working hard to get the project ready for pre-production, including several rewrites to get the script as tight as possible, and we’re now in the process of applying for funding (if anyone reading this has a spare million quid they don’t mind not seeing again – hit me up on Whatsapp).
“The development process hasn’t always been easy, but Shore Scripts have stayed with me throughout, offering advice – or sometimes simply encouragement.”
Shore Scripts have supported me outside of Land’s End too. When I was struggling to come up with an idea for my next project, Dave Beazley suggested that I should write something similar in tone to Land’s End. I took his advice, writing a comedy-drama pilot called Gifted, and Shore Scripts helped get it into development, thanks to their ability to connect writers with top industry executives. Shore Scripts first introduced me to Literary Manager Sean Dubravac at Entertainment Lab and when Gifted won a different competition, Sean got in touch and offered to represent the project.
I was thrilled to sign with him and he is currently pitching to various actors and production companies. Jane Asher is attached to play one of the roles and I have a meeting next week with a producer in LA. With their strong industry links and excellent reputation, Shore Scripts have been able to get my work in front of people I’d never normally be able to get close to, particularly as an unrepresented writer.
“Shore Scripts have completely turbo-charged my career and helped me get to a point that I thought was going to take me a number of years to reach.”
This time three years ago, I was at my absolute lowest point as a writer, but thanks to Shore Scripts, I now have two projects in development and, perhaps more importantly, I believe in myself that I can do this. My plan is to become a full-time professional screenwriter within the next five years and I am working hard to develop more scripts, build up my portfolio and make industry contacts.
Shore Scripts have continued to offer me one-to-one support and I am so incredibly grateful for everything they have done for me. I can’t speak highly enough of Shore Scripts and if you’re reading this because you’re weighing up whether to enter your (fantastic) script into one of their contests – I’d encourage you to do so. Don’t listen to anyone who says competitions don’t help writers – I assure you they absolutely can and Shore Scripts boast an impressive list of success stories, with several of their alumni going on to bigger and better things.
“Over the years I’ve won or placed in a few other competitions and I can honestly say that, out of all of them, Shore Scripts have been the one who has given me the most help and support – both at the time and in the months and years since.”
I’m nothing special. I wasn’t particularly good at school, I didn’t go to university or college, and I even spelled my name wrong on my English GCSE paper. I don’t know what convinced me that I could write film and TV scripts, but I went for it and taught myself screenwriting from books and websites. I’m pretty sure people like me don’t write screenplays, let alone sell them, and yet here I am. Call it luck, but to get that luck I first had to take the plunge and enter my screenplay into Shore Scripts. So, why not give it a go yourself? I’m not promising anything, but there is just a chance that it could completely and utterly change your life…
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