Almost blue

So I entered  The Budapest Breakfast Club into the Bluecat Screenwriting Competition this year and didn’t even make the quarter-finals.

Astounded at this snub to my genius, I knew you would all demand that Bluecat founder Gordy Hoffman come here and explain himself. So I got him to talk about why he rejected my script (and  some workshop he’s doing in London this month). This is what happened: 

Andy : I’ve just failed to make the quarter finals of the 2008 Bluecat Screenplay Competition with my multi-strand-sort-of-romantic-comedy-but-might-be-an-arty-relationship-drama-I’m-not-sure-yet feature script. Are you guys crazy? Are your readers blind? How could you fail to see the undoubted brilliance of this half-finished novel I ‘adapted’ in a week to meet your deadline? Explain yourself, please.

Gordy : We’ve had two winners named Andy, and frankly, I’m sick of it. I mean, even our winner last year was named Ana. It’s getting ridiculous. Andy, Ana. Enough. At this point, we’re through with writers who sound like Andrew — it’s our policy. Now in most cases, we make up reasons to keep them from advancing. With you, it was easy, as your script actually did suck.

Andy : Fair enough. I got my feedback report from you guys and yes, you were probably right. I guess I was confused about exactly what story I was telling.   My next draft will be much better as a result. You’re one of the few screenwriting competitions that offers a reader’s report for the entry fee. Why did you choose to have the enormous hassle of doing that?

Gordy : I ask that question every day of my life. And the genuine answer is, I’m a writer, and I’d want to know why I didn’t win (see your first question.) So that’s why we started to provide feedback to all entrants, nine years ago, to   give them the reasoning behind our decision. Over the years, the analysis we   provide has served our mission to support the development of writers in a way I didn’t imagine when we started. It’s a lot of work, it exposes us to criticism,   and it’s inherently imperfect. But when you get over 200 emails in one week   thanking you for helping writers improve, it’s worth it.

Andy : What happens to the great many screenwriters who get named as quarter finalists? Do many of them generate ‘heat’ as a result of being placed? What about those higher placed?

Gordy : I’m not sure if being a quarter finalist in any screenplay competition is going to open a door to the industry. I think winning BlueCat   definitely does — our 2005 winner, Gary the Tennis Coach, is being released by   Sony later this summer, and we discovered it. But getting named in the top   twenty percent is genuine validation. Not that I want the other 80 percent to   stop writing, but being named a quarter finalist is a definite vote of   confidence, a sincere encouragement to keep working in diligence.

Andy : You’re coming to That London in August. Why? Is it your first time   there?

Gordy : I was interviewed by Matt Morreale for his podcast earlier this year,   and we discussed the idea of putting on the BlueCat workshop in London. Before I   knew it, he had assembled the entire event. Essentially, BlueCat is committed to   meeting writers through our workshops and carrying the same message we do   through our competition, and I love to teach. London is a major centre, and   honestly, a sleeping giant, when it comes to screenwriting. (I have been to   London in the past, the most recent to write a script with a director.)

Andy : What’s this course all about? How is it different to the scores of   other screenwriting gurus who come here hawking their snake oil? What can writers really get out of it?

Gordy : Look, there’s no secret systems, formulas or fixes to successful   screenwriting, be it commercial or critical. We all know there isn’t going to be   some mystical beat sheet discovered under a rock in South America that once   properly filled out will yield the automatic blockbuster classic. Ain’t gonna   happen. It’s appealing to all of us, because if we could somehow get around the   demanding task of actually telling the truth about living and about life, most   of us would jump at the chance. So I’m out of a snake oil. But I love to teach,   my students think I’m funny and fun, and everybody leaves inspired to take   another big step forward to their goal. In short, I actually care. If I didn’t,   I wouldn’t know what to say.

Andy : I’ve heard on the grapevine that you’re thinking of creating a special mini-Bluecat competition for the UK. Is it true (and are you going to read my   script properly this time)?

Gordy : Yes, we plan on adding a sidebar to our 2009 competition, where all UK writers will compete for a special prize of £1000. We do this because I noticed two things recently: UK writers are exceptionally strong, and there’s   simply not enough competitions directed towards this community. BlueCat wants to   search and discover the best UK writers. And yes, this search will include reading your script again, and I trust it will be greatly improved, after   several months of intense revision.

So there you have it. Straight from the horse’s mouth. I guess I’d better sort out that script now.

The Bluecat Screewnriting Workshops take place in London from 12 – 17 August. Book your tickets now.  

Readers may not be interested to know that The Budapest Breakfast Club is now being extensively revised using index cards.  


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