Writing Contest and the Creative Bankruptcy

 

Do you know when you have the perfect writing piece in your head, just right before falling asleep? At that moment, when you have a great idea and it seems like your blog post planned for the next morning is ready in your mind and when you wake it vanishes? That happened to me last night.

I woke up this morning and nothing came to mind about the post, except a few eloquent words that surprised even me. The only thing I remember from before falling asleep was the term “Creative Bankruptcy”. Stay with me a little longer and see if what I’m thinking about it makes sense.

Creative Bankruptcy

Have you ever participated in one of the Writing contests across different platforms? I did and after much thinking about it, I concluded that it all might be a scam to seed ideas. Have you ever thought that the paid ones, you might be paying someone with more influence than you, to steal your ideas and present them as like it was theirs?

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I’ve seen some people complaining on Twitter, and I don’t mean the random kid in a basement in Ohio, who writes about robots and zombies. I mean people that have some experience with the industry.

A few months ago, I read someone saying that they have been trying to pitch this script for a long time, only to find out, someone with more influence, just twerk some things on the plot and presented it as theirs.

Don’t pitch your ideas to random people

I was furious. That’s when I started to think about the Writing Contests and Creative Writing Schools, like Full Sail, that I graduated from a few years ago.

Full Sail has great teachers and very knowledgeable people. My only problem was with some of them who insisted that they had that type of influence in Hollywood.

That they could either find you a job or between the lines sell your ideas for their producer friend. Here is why I say that.

One of my Writing for TV teachers had worked in Hollywood for a great amount of time. He constantly said that he was one of the judges of the Emmy and he knew a lot of people. We get that. So in his class, we were given a few options to choose a TV show to write a spec script for, during the 4 weeks of class. My choice was Brooklyn 99.

Brooklyn 99 it is!

The show is amazing and if I had to dive in headfirst on something, for 4 weeks, it had to be something I’d enjoy watching. I started to study the characters, their story arc, why the series creator, writers, and producers had in mind when they created certain episodes.

I study it deeply. First, because I would love to be a tv writer, and second it was my chance to show I was good at something, for once.

After the first week’s assignment, I got a C-. When I asked him what was wrong, he simply told me “I know Dan, he is the show’s creator and he would never use that.”

The same teacher called me on the phone on a Thursday, to change the 3 acts completely. I had to skip work because that part of the assignment was due that Friday at midnight. I spent the entire day, exhaustingly working on it. I still got a C.

Maybe I was very in sync with the show, maybe my spec idea was passed on.

A few months forward when the new season of the show started some of the ideas I input on the spec was on the episode. Maybe I was very in sync with the show, maybe my spec was passed on. We might never know. I don’t think Full Sail will have control over that. No one has. We can have the same ideas, you might just be more prone to get it done than me. Or know the right people.

Last year when I participated in the Nickelodeon Writing contest I was pretty confident I was gonna place. I had to write a spec and an original comedy piece.

The spec I chose was Pen15, which was easier to write because I lived in the same era as the characters. The year 2000. Since I had two scripts to write in 4 weeks, I had to rush. It took me 3 weeks to write the Pen15 spec and 3 days to write my original since it was based on my life.

We can use your ideas, and you won’t have how to prove it was yours. Ever.

Once I had everything ready and before submitting the scripts, I had to sign a term, that I give Viacom all the rights, and any ideas they used that look like yours, are mere coincidence. What I understood was: We can use your ideas, and you won’t have how to prove it was yours. Ever. We have your release form.

Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash 

That gave me chills on my spine. If you use my ideas, at least give me credit for it. Or pay me for a coffee. Something. Before hitting the submitting button, I paced around the house.

Pouring rain, with trees shaking with the wind and the power about to go out. I looked at the window and thought to myself “Maybe I will see this show with someone else’s name on it and pressed the submit button.

Doogie Howser MD.

Back in my writing school days, one of my first assignments was to write a spec or a new version of Doogie Howser MD. I wrote about Doogies Kids, who had the same intelligence as him, and they were twins, a boy, and a girl.

Fast forward a few years, Disney+ comes with a new version of the show. It aches my heart just to think that they might have received my spec and once again, their experience and influence, which I don’t have, made it better and sold the idea I created. Creative Writing School For the Entertainment Business sounds a bit sketchy by now.

I’m not saying by any means that someone stole my idea at school, but I wonder how many people from the same school or others, think about the possibility of that situation happening too.

That’s one of the reasons why I think these contests are what I call a Creative Bankrupt. A term I heard on youtube while a filmmaker was talking about the entertainment industry and how creativity is only to make money, and not for entertainment purposes anymore.

They will make the tones of money, while you were snatched with 70 dollars for your idea

My thoughts on that are: You have a great idea and you paid to be in a contest, they tell you you need to work on this and that (if you pay the higher fee, for feedback) and you might be giving this person an idea that it will make the tones of money, while you were snatched with 70 dollars.

Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

I’m not saying it’s not worth it. It depends on every person, I participated in the free ones, even though I learned to read the fine lines before submitting. Everyone should do as they wish. Contests are fun and they give you a good idea of timing to work on a project. But like everything else, it’s all about the money and business.

They don’t want to invest in projects they don’t know if they will ever get the money back. That’s why we also have an array of The Rock movies, Marvel, and 17 seasons of Grey’s anatomy. We always see the same people, movie after movie and tv shows that raised this new generation.

It’s always the same people, with the same movie over and over.

That’s why it is probably so hard to break into the industry. It’s been corrupted for God knows how long. I believe youtube is the best way to break in for creators. I’m putting all my eggs in that basket now.

You do all the hard work, to someone come and steal your idea. That’s rewarding.

 

It would be a great idea to start a spec script company to be used by upcoming filmmakers, like film students and film enthusiasts so everyone would have a chance to have the same opportunity to shine. It’s something I will have to develop still.

Please let me know in the comments if you think your ideas were used by some writing contest or some of your teachers passed your ideas along to someone with more influence in the industry.

Stay Healthy, Stay Sane.

J.G.Snell