Friday, August 17, 2007

Good News, Masked by Stupidity and Technical Problems

I entered a feature film script in the Scriptapalooza contest earlier this year. Last month I received an email that the film winners were announced – out of 3,400 something entries I was…nowhere to be seen. I was in good company with 91% of entrants in not even making the quarterfinals, but sad nonetheless. It was a script I’ve been writing and rewriting literally for 17 years. Time to hang it up, no? Yes. So this was the sign. It’s done. I had expected nothing and I was not disappointed. “Taking Cranberries” R.I.P. 1990 – 2007.

BUT, I also entered, for the first time, a television script. It was a spec for the NBC show, Medium. I thought it was pretty tight, nice little drama in 4 acts with snooty nods to some Japanese authors I admire. Very high-brow indeed. (Gag.)

I received the email a few days ago that those winners had been announced. I quickly went to the website and found that I was…not in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. Nor was I one of the 15 semi-finalists. I was also, shockingly, not listed amongst the 26 additional quarterfinalists. I was, in a word, depressed. And so began the tailspin. It’s not that I thought I would win the whole thing – it’s all very competitive. But I did expect to make at least one of the cuts. Not so much.

Not that I’m prone to dramatic overstatements, but now I needed to think of something else to do with my life. I envisioned myself working on a road crew fixing potholes. Or perhaps pursuing a career as an ice trucker. Or maybe I could apply for work on the Time Bandit when opilio season came around again. But clearly, writing is not for me.

I crawled out of my funk later that day just long enough to track down a fellow contestant who had also written and submitted a Medium script who made it to the semifinals. I sent her a note congratulating her for going as far as she did and asking if she would mind sharing her script so I could see some of where I went wrong.

A day went by with no reply. I went back into tailspin mode – Quarterfinalists don’t have time for amateurs who can’t even crack the top 50.

But then I got her email. She suggested that she should read my script to see where she had gone wrong – since I had placed higher than she had. In the words of Beethoven, “Vas?”

Oh, she must have gotten a few emails from people and she mixed me up with someone else. I didn’t make a single cut. So I went to the website to see who she might be thinking I was and then I saw it…I had, in fact, been named a Finalist. Top 8. Yippee-kai-aye!

How could this be?

Well, I had no idea, so I fired her off an email explaining that I guess while it is implied that I can write a little, I clearly cannot read, or recognize my name in print. I thanked her for pulling me out of my creative failure-induced funk (for the moment) and we agreed to swap scripts and notes. She also gave me some very sound advice on writing specs and building up a network of contacts and amassing samples of work. Advice I plan on following.

But it remained a mystery how this could have happened. I, of course, checked the website ten more times to ensure I was still there – I even did it just now – happy to report I am still listed. And it was in the midst of all this checking that I realized what had happened. I know you don’t really care, but I’m going to tell you anyway, after all, you’ve read this much already.

Our names are not listed on the site individually, but rather the groups of finalists, quarters, and semis are graphics. So, like just now when the graphic listing the Reality TV finalists failed, when I first logged on the graphic with my name failed. And I hadn’t noticed the category was missing. Done in by some faulty code on the internet -- curse you, Al Gore. Curse this wicked invention of yours.

So there it is, I made the top 8 in the 1 hour dramatic television category. I’ll take it.

And in case you are wondering if I may have placed better in the feature script contest but fallen victim to the same kind of technical mix-up…the answer is…no. I checked. A few times. And again just now. But thanks for asking.