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How To Win A Screenwriting Contest

Get Tips From Shore Scripts Feature Winners Nell and Dave



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If you want some tips on how to win a screenwriting contest, a good place to start is this interview with 2016’s Shore Scripts Screenwriting Competition winners. Nell and Dave also known as Mrs & Mr Thomas won the feature category with their Sci-Fi screenplay The Assessor.

The script is a psychological drama about a couple living in a near-future Britain in which the only way you can conceive is if someone from the government comes to live with you for a week to see if you’ll be suitable parents.

The creative writer/producer/director couple met in an edit suite and in the following interview impart some great advice on how to win a screenwriting contest. So let’s dive on in.

1. Why do you think The Assessor won the Shore Scripts contest and what advice would you give to anyone entering a screenwriting competition?

The script of The Assessor is really honest. Although set in the near future and a Sci-Fi it deals with a universal issue. So hopefully everyone reading it can draw on their own experiences to help them empathize with our characters.

We think that this script was a unique combination of us writing about our personal experience (becoming parents) combined with a very high concept idea.

We really watched and deconstructed some Sci-Fi films we loved and thought about how we could write our own story in that style. We kept it simple and manageable. At its heart it’s a three-hander and we practiced pitching it a lot before we started writing it.

Before we had written a word of the script we really knew the world, the characters and the challenges they would be facing. Even as we are re-writing it now, it’s fundamentally true to that original treatment we wrote.

We are really proud to have won as we know the competition will have been of a very high standard and are delighted that our cool idea appealed to the judges.

[How To Win A Screenwriting Contest Pro Tip: Really know your genre. Break down movies in your chosen genre by writing outlines of them as you watch, listing characters and getting inside what they want, fear, need, etc.]

2. Why did you enter Shore Scripts contest in particular and what are you hoping will happen now you’ve won?

We looked down the list of judges and wanted them all to read our work. They are people you would be fortunate to get a few minutes with so the idea that they might read and debate our idea was incredibly exciting.

[How To Win A Screenwriting Contest Pro Tip: Don’t just enter your script into multiple contests without doing your research first. Find out who’s on the panel and work out if they’re a good fit for your script.]

3. How long have you been writing screenplays and how long did it take you to learn the craft?

The first full-length screenplay Dave wrote was part of the Old Vic New Voices scheme in Britain, nine years ago — an intensive industry workshopping of an idea. The course encouraged Dave to think about character, structure as well as how to market and write scripts with commercial appeal.

We then wrote and produced a few shorts giving us the opportunity to work with actors, hear our scripts and spend time in the edit with our rushes really understanding how scripts translate on to the screen.

Since then we have written and produced our debut feature film This Is Not Happening and Dave has been teaching screenwriting on an MA course.

[How To Win A Screenwriting Contest Pro Tip: The knowledge gained from workshopping a script is invaluable. Join a course that includes this, or a writing group and see how your words on the page translate into real life.]

4. Did you go to film school? If so, would you recommend it — how much of a help was it to your career?

I (Dave) studied TV Production at Bournemouth University as an Undergraduate. I met life-long friends and collaborators there. We both started work together as fresh-faced 20-somethings at a little TV company called Glasshead and started making factual films for television and for education.

We were then lucky as the DSLR revolution happened so we could afford to make films ourselves. We would still love to have gone to film school, though, making new work and meeting new creative people. We just have never had that sort of money.

Having taught at University I think the collaborative aspect of film school is definitely really valuable. As a filmmaker you can become really isolated and it can seem impossible to get your ideas off the ground. I think you can learn everything from the Internet but the shared experience you would get at a Film School can’t be underestimated.

[How To Win A Screenwriting Contest Pro Tip: If you can afford it, film school can be a great move. Especially for the collaborations that can continue after graduating.]

5. What are some of your favorite movies you’d recommend?

  • Dancer in the Dark
  • Festen
  • Soylent Green
  • Die Hard.

They all have incredible scripts and imaginative, creative approaches.

6. If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring screenwriters what would it be?

Perhaps, not to get too hung up on any one idea. Ideas are free, have lots of them, look at the world and see the conflict and drama behind every closed curtain and inside
every car stopped at a traffic light.

Think about moments that have moved you and the obstacles you have overcome and use those experiences to give motivations to your characters. Live as varied and interesting a life as you can and share those experiences on the pages you write.

7. How can people find out more about you?

We’re on Twitter: @ewanthomas@NellGC
Or visit our website:

screenplay contest

  1. Nic Penrake says:

    Nicely put together promo video – modest, thoughtful, genuine.

  2. Webby says:

    I’ve entered so many of these things but never get anywhere. Time to focus on just writing and trying to get an agent I think.

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