By now, everyone will have heard about their Red Planet Prize entry.
Well, not everyone. I’m pretty certain not everyone entered. 7 billion entries would be quite tricky to get through and the ones from babies would be terrible.
So no, not everyone; but everyone who entered. Oh for fuck’s sake. I’ll start again.
By now, everyone who entered will have heard about their Red Planet Prize entry. Some of you will be doing the Snoopy dance …
The rest of you won’t.
But here’s the thing … it doesn’t matter which group you’re in. Not really.
I’ve blogged about this before: Ivory Tower (that post is far better than this one. I’d go and read that one, if I were you) and six years later the same’s pretty much true – competitions are great, but they’re just diversions from your career.
Okay, so *possibly* winning something prestigious will catapult you to the top of the pile. Doors will open. Contracts will rain down upon you and all will be well in the world.
But probably not.
Probably, even if you win a competition, you’ll find yourself lauded and fêted for a bit … probably for as long as it takes for someone to ask “what else have you got?”
I’ve been there. Years ago I won a thing which got me some coverage, which got a very prestigious Hollywood manager sniffing around … which led to absolutely nothing, because my answer to “What else have you got?” was … nothing good.
Because here’s the thing (really? Here‘s the thing? I thought the thing was a few lines back?) being a scriptwriter isn’t about a script.
Competitions are, true.
Competitions are all about that one specific script you entered. They aren’t judging you, your ability, your dedication or your craft … they’re judging a script.
Not even one, not really. In this case they’re making a judgement based on one sixth of a script.
Their reasons for rejecting that sixth of a script (not you, the script – no one’s rejecting you) are probably bang on the money.
Okay, so there may be mitigating factors. Chances are, no matter how ‘out there’ you feel your premise is, they had several very similar ones in. Perhaps yours was identical in all but character names to five other scripts? Perhaps yours got rejected because they had to choose one and that person on that day preferred the name Algernon to the name Reginald?
It doesn’t matter.
Just as your career isn’t hung on one script*, it isn’t hung on one competition either. Winning a competition gives you a brief moment of access and attention – you still have to have the skill and determination to use that moment. You need exactly the same skill and determination (and stick-at-it-ness – I’m sure I know a word for that, but can’t think of one at the moment) to succeed whether you win a competition or not.
Winning isn’t everything, playing the long game is.
Because here’s the thing (another the thing! Fuck me, how many of these singular things are there?) people who win or place in competitions (and I’m not talking specifically about the Red Planet Prize here) don’t always have a career afterwards.
I can think of at least one guy who’s won loads of competitions and it doesn’t seem to have helped at all.
I’ve met another who was a runner up in the Red Planet Prize (and I am talking specifically about the Red Planet Prize here) who had twelve months of access to Red Planet Productions … and didn’t take advantage of it at all.
Why? Because he (or she! Could have been a she! It wasn’t, but it could have been) never really came up with an idea he thought they’d be interested in.
In twelve months.
For fuck’s sake!
Many writers I know are no longer writers. They’ve given up because it’s a hard frustrating battle of constant rejection. Always. All the time. Everyone gets rejected. Everyone. All the time. It’s the whole point of the game:
“Do you like this?”
“What about this?”
“Are you sure?”
To paraphrase John Sheridan, all you need to have a successful career is to ask the question one more time than they can say no.
And possibly some talent. And maybe a computer of some kind. And probably enough social skills not to fling your own shit at people who are trying to pay you.
The Red Planet Prize is an awesome competition and a great opportunity for those who get through to the final dozen or so; but it’s just one thing in a whole forest of things; because here’s the real thing – there’s more than one thing.
* Because one script isn’t a career, it’s a script. Statistically, probably a bad one. We all write them. Some of us are unlucky enough to have them made into films.