Hey, it’s Michael Jamin. Today we’re gonna talk about submitting your work to screenwriting contests and film contests and all that. And so are they good or are they bad? Here’s what I know about that, very little. I really don’t. I don’t know at all. I do know that the winners of those contests often draw attention from agents and managers and such. And so, in that sense, if you win a contest, that could be really good for you because that person will see your script and say, okay, I’m now going to take a flyer on you and I’m going to help you open doors and so great that that can really help. And that’s a wonderful thing to get out of a contest.

Then the script winds up in a pile for a showrunner, someone like me, someone who could possibly hire you. And so when we’re staffing for a show, not just me, but any showrunner, you start from the top up. You hire the co-executive producer first, and then the supervisor producer, the people who get paid a lot of money, they get hired first because you know, you need people with experience. And then if there’s money left over, hopefully, there is, you might get something in your budget to hire a staff writer, someone brand new with very little experience. And that’s when your gent or your manager puts that script in a pile. And someone like me will read it. And I’ll have a pile of easily 30 scripts. And so often those underrepresented people, people who don’t really have a voice in Hollywood, who grew up in the inner city and has an interesting story, or maybe someone who grew up in the country then went to the Marines and fought in the war. 

Those are interesting people, great backgrounds, and they could be helpful to have in our writers’ room, but there they’re going to be 30 of those people. If you’re not one of those people, that’s okay too, because you know, you could still have a good story and an interesting unique story, but we can only hire one. And so the one that gets hired, is the one who knows how to write. So there are many people in that pile. They’ve already cleared that first hurdle of being good enough to get an agent, but now they have to get the second hurdle, which is people like me, that the showrunner wants to know if you can write. 

Can you write a story? Can you make me read something that makes me want to turn the page and find out what happens next? And if you can’t do that, we’re not going to hire you. We’re going to hire that person who can. Now you may think, oh, that’s okay. I have an agent. The agent is going to push me again on something else. Well, no, the agent is going to open the door. They’re going to put the script. They’re not going to teach you how to do it. They don’t know how to do it. They don’t know how to write. That’s not their specialty. They’re going to open the door. And then they’re going to put your script on a pile. Eventually, after a couple of submissions, if you don’t get hired, they’re not going to fight for you. They’re going to find somebody else. And that person’s there waiting. It’s like in the NFL, you know, if you’re running back, craps out in year one, you know, next year there’s gonna be 400 guys just like them waiting to take a slot. So it’s, it’s ruthless.

This is the same thing with staff writers. There’s a long line of people who want that. And they’re constantly coming in. There’s no shortage of people like that. There are people who’ve been on shows as a story editor, which is kind of a lower-level writer. They’re happy if they can get work, they’re happy to bump down to staff writer again. Well, not thrilled, but they’ll take it, they’ll do it for the job. So you’re not just competing with people who are lower. You’re competing with people who are a little bit higher. So you need to know how to write. And I’m telling you, of those scripts that I see, not many of them are from people who really don’t know how to write. When I find them, I’m like, Ooh, you’re hired. It’s like, it’s easy. It’s a no-brainer. That’s what I teach in the course. So it’s not, again, it’s not good enough to be good enough. You have to really know what you’re doing. You have to understand the story, hope that helps. If you want to learn more, click the link.

Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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