By Joan Macbeth, VIWIFF Screenplay Competition Coordinator
- This may seem obvious, but double-check the rules! Page-count matters. If you have over 120 pages, or under 80 pages, chances are your script needs another edit. The VIWIFF Screenplay Competition is for feature-length screenplays, so please don’t submit your TV pilot or short film script. And a “blind” title page? What does that even mean? It means that when we assign your script to our jury readers, they don’t know who the author is, so they cannot be influenced by what you might have written before, whether or not you have representation or if you are a total newbie. The focus is on your storytelling ability. All three submission portals allow you to upload different versions of your script, so include one with an anonymous title page.
- Make the first few pages count. Grab the reader with action and a hook. A strong opening image is great; but no need to waste the first few pages world building – you can circle back to that after page 10 or later, if it’s necessary. Introduce your protagonist on the first page, or second at the latest. Readers tend to latch onto the first character introduced, so if it’s not the protagonist, then you risk confusing the reader when the heroine shows up with a late entrance. Jump right into the story.
- Apply the Bechdel Test. Some years we’ve used it in the judging criteria, other years not. But it’s always a good policy, particularly if you might be a male/female writing team. (We do accept submissions as long as the team is at least 50% female.)
The Bechdel Test:
The movie has to have at least two women in it,
who talk to each other,
about something besides a man.
- How’s your white space? If scene descriptions run long, try to pare them down. Avoid writing camera angles. Give just enough descriptive information for the reader to “see” what’s going on. No need to get inside the characters’ heads or explain their emotions or back-story. Try to keep the narrative to four lines or less per paragraph. While you’re at it, proofread for typos and those little errors that can distract the reader and take them out of the story: their, there & they’re, etc.
- Check your dialogue. What’s that you say? Do characters repeat things back to other characters? Not necessary. Are the scenes buttoned with a snappy line of dialogue that propels the story to the next scene? Eliminate extra words like yes, no, um, and overuse of a character’s name. Dialogue should sound more natural than natural speech.
Our mission at the VIWIFF Screenplay Competition is to encourage women screenwriters to hone their craft and elevate their careers. We look forward to reading your submissions! The top ten Official Selections will receive a pass to the 2019 Vancouver International Women in Film Festival and the 1st Place Winner will receive a prize package that includes cash, a 12-month ISAConnect membership and other industry bonuses.
Next Deadline: July 30, 2018
VIWIFF 2019 is committed to highlighting the best stories the world has to offer that are written by women. Check out our submissions guidelines here!