A near miss, a spec script, and a screenplay in a month

Hello and welcome to my website.

I’m relaunching these weekly posts highlighting my writing life. It’s a way to hold myself accountable on my writing goals and a way to commiserate with like-minded creative souls (as well as a few old friends!).

These columns will include a little of everything. And by that, I mean I may write about topics of interest, tips or lessons learned about the craft, upcoming webinars or events I think may be of interest, and, of course, updates on what I’m writing, reading, and more.

You may not care, or you may find a link or nugget of information valuable to you within. Either way, you can tell your friends and family someday, “I knew him when…”

Today, I’m talking about my short screenplay “Skin,” screenplay readers, and why it’s important to have a spec TV script in your portfolio.

So, let’s get started!

What I’m Writing

My short screenplay “Skin” – a macabre little number about an unusual couple who survive by wearing the skins of their victims and their argument over one of their next skins — advanced to the semifinals of the Nashville Film Festival’s Screenwriting Competition! According to script competition director Cat Stewart, my script got “a few finalist votes,” but that wasn’t enough as only unanimous finalist vote-getters made the elite Finals round. So, close but no cigar.

Still, it’s exciting that it had such a good run in the contest, reaching the top 13 scripts in the shorts category. Unlike last year when I entered my TV comedy pilot “Bill Fisher’s Trading Post” (also a semifinalist!), the pool for shorts was written by writers from anywhere in the world, not just Tennessee. And it still reached semis and damn near got into the finals!

I must be doing something right!  

The truth is screenplay contests are all very subjective. One reader/judge may be absolutely blown away by your words, another may only be mildly impressed. People have different tastes. You never know how they are feeling going into the read. Maybe they had a long day in their real job or were facing a family situation (this Covid pandemic is enough to stress everyone out!), so they weren’t in the mood. Maybe they had a great day and were ready for someone to wow them. Maybe they weren’t especially keen on horror with a socio-political twist. Maybe they were looking for a laugh instead.

So many factors go into any read.

An earlier version of the same script made quarterfinals in the Killer Shorts Screenplay Competition in January before bowing out.  But it failed to even make quarters in either the Filmmatic Shorts Competition or the Holly Shorts Competition. So, you never know. In the end, it’s just a matter of connecting with the right reader.

Kind of like winning the lottery.

So, what now? Nashville is including the logline and synopsis for the script in its competitions packet for interested producers, so we’ll see if it gets any bites. I may also post it on Ink Tip, which is a site where you can post your scripts for possible producers who may be interested in optioning it. Another possibility would be to film the script myself. I know several people who have had some film experience who I’m sure would be more than happy to help.  I don’t think I’m at that point yet, but it’s certainly something to think about. I’ve entered it in a couple of other screenwriting contests and am waiting to see how it does in those.  

In the meantime, I’ve been working on finishing up a spec script based on the What We Do in the Shadows TV series. My goal was to have it finished and entered in the Nickelodeon Screenwriting Contest, but that deadline has come and gone. More likely, I’ll try to enter it in another upcoming contest on my calendar. Last year I wrote a spec for Young Sheldon, the spinoff series from The Big Bang Theory. It was loads of fun and is one of my favorite scripts, and this one is proving to be just as much fun.

Writing specs (which are scripts set in the world of an existing TV show) used to be one of the tried-and-true ways people broke into the screenwriting industry. But with the thirst for new material by all the different streamers, cable channels, and networks, original series scripts are more sought after than ever. That doesn’t mean having a spec or two in your portfolio is a bad idea. It can serve as proof that you can write to whatever show in whatever voice that’s needed.

And like I said, it’s fun. Like fan fiction, only better.

This month, I’m participating in Goal Post, a one-month challenge to write a screenplay from start to finish. If I can churn out three script pages a day, mission accomplished. It’s eminently doable and, if nothing else, will serve as a good incentive to push myself to finish another script. It may come out like crap (most first drafts do!), but it will give me something to work on, polish, and make stronger.

I’m still playing with the title, but for now I’m calling it “Jerry Lonely.” How does that sound?

I’ll keep you posted each week on my progress.

Until next time, then…Keep writing!

G. Robert Frazier

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