A few weeks ago we posted some details about the Killer Shorts Horror Short Screenplay Competition from The Screenwriters Network. As we shared this on social media, it caught the interest of a lot of our readers, so we wanted to dig a little deeper into the contest, and make sure everyone knows about it. Luckily we got the chance to talk to the director of this amazing competition, Alison Parker. Check out the interview below and find out more about entering the contest, the rewards, tips, and much more…
-PH: So before we talk about this year’s contest, where did the idea for the contest come from?
-Alison: I run a fairly large screenwriting community called The Screenwriters Network (https://thescreenwritersnetwork.com) and we often host contests to motivate and inspire our members to write. In 2019, I noticed the trend of horror short films helping filmmakers break into the industry, so I decided it would be a fun challenge to run a contest for horror short screenplays. Major sponsors like Final Draft and Shudder came on board, and before I knew it, we had literary managers and producers agreeing to read the winning shorts. Things got legit fast, so we decided to open the contest to screenwriters worldwide, not just members of our community…and that’s how The Killer Shorts Horror Short Screenplay competition was started!
-PH: Please tell us a little about this year’s contest. How do people get entered, and what should those entires look like?
-Alison: Season 2 has an amazing jury, including literary managers, producers, programmers and filmmakers, as well as some iconic horror actors and actresses, such as Barbara Crampton and Joe Bob Briggs. They will be reading the top 10 scripts and choosing our Top 3 winners. We have prizes from sponsors such as Final Draft screenwriting software, Shudder, Rue Morgue, Script Butcher, Slasher App, Ghoulish Gary, Trick or Treat Studios, Fright Rags, Creepy Co, ISA Network, 1313 Mockingbird Lane Toys & Collectibles, and Waxwork Records.
Anyone around the world can enter the contest as long as their script is 25 pages or less and properly formatted as a screenplay. They can use contest submission platforms Coverfly, Filmfreeway or ISA to submit, and learn more at our website https://killershortscontest.com
-PH: Is this open to experienced writers, or anyone who is willing to meet the challenge?
-Alison: We are looking to help emerging writers connect with literary managers, producers and industry reps who they would not normally have access to. Experienced writers can enter, but only if they’ve made less than $10,000 for writing in the past year. Applicants should be sure to read our Submission Guidelines before entering to be absolutely sure they are eligible.
-PH: You received hundreds of entries last year. How tough was it to pick the winners?
-Alison: Soooo tough! We received over 765 submissions and narrowing it down to our top 100 Quarter-Finalists was really hard. There were many scripts that scored highly but just missed the cut off. Being a screenwriter myself, I know how heartbreaking it can be to not make that list. And you may never know how close you were. A lot of it depends on what scripts you are going up against. But the cream always rises to the top, as they say, and I do believe the best scripts made it through.
-PH: This year will probably be even harder to win. Any advice you could give writers based off of last year’s winners?
-Alison: I have given a lot of tips on this on our podcast and a blog article here. Aside from making sure your script is properly formatted and typo-free, my best tip would be to surprise us. Give us something new, because we read a lot of werewolf scripts, a lot of zombie scripts, a lot of serial killer scripts. What can you do differently to make your script stand out? Think about that.
-PH: Lets talk a little about the rewards. Winning scripts will be read by some amazing people in the film industry. Please tell us who a few of those people are, and how you got them involved in the contest.
-Alison: Yes! So excited about this year’s jury and that they will be reading all top 10 finalists! While there are no guarantees, you never know what could happen as a result. And it’s such a rare opportunity to find literary managers willing to read short scripts. A lot of people turned me down. But our jury members recognize the potential to discover talented screenwriters via horror short scripts.
One jury member I am very excited about is Julian Terry, who wrote and directed three horror short films (They Hear It, Whisper, and The Nurse) and all three are being turned into features. I mean, who better to judge horror shorts, right? Then we have literary managers who really champion emerging screenwriters, like John Zaozirny from Bellevue Productions, Matthew Dartnell from Writ Large, Scott Stoops from Good Fear Content, Krista Sipp from First Friday…Lee Stobby, Glenn Cockburn… we’ve got Chelsea Lupkin, who is not only a horror short filmmaker herself (Check out Lucy’s Tale on ALTER, ya’ll!), but a Senior Programmer at Short of the Week. Jenn Wexler who directed The Ranger. And any horror fan knows the legendary actress Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, You’re Next, From Beyond)! She is such a wonderful person and has probably read thousands of horror screenplays in her career, so we are incredibly grateful to have her on the Killer Shorts jury! Last, but certainly not least, Joe Bob Briggs. I mean, what can you say? If you don’t know who Joe Bob is, do you even horror, bro?
-PH: How many winners will there be, and what are some of the other rewards that will be available?
-Alison: The Top 3 scripts will have their screenplays circulated to even more literary managers, producers and industry reps. The third place winner will receive 5 pages of actionable advice from The Script Butcher. All three will also receive free subscriptions to Shudder, ISA Network, Final Draft software, Creepy Co gift cards, tons of unique horror memorabilia, and waived entry to multiple other contests including Austin Film Festival and Nashville Film Festival. Our Top 10 finalists will also snag some pretty cool prizes, thanks to Final Draft and Creepy Co. And all screenplays which achieve Quarter Finalist status or higher will receive increased rank on Coverfly’s The Red List, making their script discoverable by even more producers.
-PH: Last years winners, have any of those scripts gone to be films, or are maybe in the process of?
-Alison: Covid-19 really delayed things, but one of our winners has had meetings with a top literary manager and a production company interested in the feature version of his script. We hope to have our first official ‘success story’ to share soon, but these things take time.
-PH: What is the biggest difference between this year’s contest and last year’s? Is it the kind of scripts you’re looking for, the rewards, or something else?
-Alison: More prizes, more industry reps in our network willing to read the winning scripts, the addition of the star-studded jury, and our commitment to uplift female-identifying, non-binary and people of color screenwriters by working with organizations to provide discounts to their members.
-PH: When does the contest end, and when will the winners be announced?
-Alison: The final deadline is Dec 15th, 2020. The quarter-finalists will be announced on February 15, 2021, and the Top 3 winners will be announced April 26th, 2021.
-PH: For you, what is the hardest part about doing a contest like this, and what is your favorite part about it?
-Alison: I would say the hardest part is sending rejection emails. I know what it’s like to be on their end and it truly sucks. Some screenwriters can take rejection really hard and question what they did wrong, if they should continue writing, or if they should even enter contests anymore. Some scripts will get into one contest and not another, and that can be really discouraging and confusing for the writers. It all depends on what scripts you are going up against in that particular contest season, how much competition there is, and how memorable you make your screenplay. Just keep writing and don’t give up!
My favorite part is hearing from countless writers that Killer Shorts inspired them to write a short for the first time, or boosted their confidence so much they decided to turn their short into a feature! I love that! Or seeing writers network with each other on social media, and find directors and producers to bring their visions to life.
-PH: This is all thanks to The Screenwriters Network. For those who might not be familiar with them, please tell us a little about them, and how they help screenwriters.
-Alison: The Screenwriters Network is an awesome community of screenwriters which I also run. They help screenwriters by providing a safe place online to hang out with other writers, using the VOIP application Discord. This allows both text and voice chat in real time. We have table reads, writing prompts, contests, script feedback, logline advice, a professional’s lounge, writing groups, a podcast, a blog, plus a script hub containing over 16,000 screenplays – 100% free to join and use. We also award tokens to our most helpful members, which can be redeemed for free entries to the Killer Shorts contest. Our goal is to help screenwriters learn and network, and we welcome writers from all experience levels. We hope to see you there!
-PH: And finally, is there anything else you would like to mention about the contest?
-Alison: The only other thing I’ll say is that this contest is the perfect opportunity to write your first screenplay. Shorts can be anywhere from 1 to 25 pages. Even if you’ve never written something before in your life, you can do it! We’ve had first timers make it to the semi-finals! Give it a shot. We’d love to read your work!
We would like to thank Alison for taking the time to answer our questions. Hopefully this gave you a good look at their fantastic contest, and encouraged you to enter! They have some great prizes, and you never know what can happen unless you take the chance. There’s plenty of time to enter so start working on a script today! Again more contest details can be found at: https://killershortscontest.com, and don’t forget to check out The Screenwriters Network.