Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. Michael D. Pollock
Contests, Fellowships, and Pitchfests are year round. They cost money and time and more often than not nothing will come of your entry. So why continue to submit? You know why. You are a writer. This is what you do. The script is done. You’ve had it covered and analyzed and re-written more than once. It is tweaked to perfection and ready for some love. But none comes. You didn’t pay for feedback so you don’t know why. Oh well. Chalk it as a strike and take another swing. If you are doubting this entry, try another screenplay – you have more, don’t you? If you got notes from your entry take a look, maybe another pass is called for. Maybe not. You know what to do. What you don’t do is give up.
— 1. Nicholl Fellowship Competition – Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
The biggest, most well-respected and highest paying contest out there is the Nicholl Competition, which is put on every year by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Per their website, “Each year, the Academy Nicholl screenwriting competition awards up to five $35,000 fellowships to amateur screenwriters. To enter, submit a feature length screenplay and entry fee via the online application when the competition is open for submissions. Fellowship winners are invited to participate in awards week ceremonies and seminars and expected to complete at least one original feature film screenplay during the Fellowship year.
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My very good friend, Consuelo Mackintosh is applying for a grant. The How and Why of the grant were easy peasy, let’s have a couple of shots to celebrate. The next phase, she’s not so much celebrating as dreading. In this section of the grant application she has to write a biography. A one paragraph summary of your life. Even if you are an unabashed narcissist, this is not as simple as it sounds.
At some point in your career you will be required to write a biography. A short bio be it for your agent to include with your script or an announcement when you’ve won a contest or been hired to some noteworthy assignment is sometimes the industry’s first impression of you. It is an easy opportunity to build your reputation. Scared yet? You should be. How you present yourself matters. I wish it didn’t. I wish we could all go to meetings in sweatpants. But that’s not realistic. If people judged strangers by the quality of their work then the make-up, lingerie and plastic surgery industries would collapse in on themselves.
So you have to put your best self forward and write your bio, huh? Do you go all the way back to your 5th grade essay on the electoral process and why it matters? Should you include the fact that you have rescued and found homes for seven cats? Um– No and No (but, well done.) The short bio is just that– don’t say too much, but just enough. Let’s break this into a few easy to manage components.
- Who Are You – just the facts, please. Whatever relevant information is appropriate for the audience reading about you.“Consuelo Mackinosh is a native of Argentina, home of the tango.”
- How You Got To Be An Expert – the education, experience and street cred that makes you perfect for doing what you do.“She decided to pursue her American Dream in Los Angeles. Fluent in both Spanish and English, she earned her B.A. in Business Administration from UCLA .”
Please note: Years are tricky. It is never a great idea to admit your age unless applying for something specific – Under 21 or Over 40 programs for example.
- Any Noteworthy Accomplishments – this is where you sing your praises; because you know if you don’t no one else will.“In the 1990s she married and started a family while running a successful clothing business out of her home. Two children and two divorces later, Consuelo is a grandmother of three forced to work in the fitting room of a major retail department Co store where she uses her excellent interpersonal skills telling fat women how good they look in clothes two sizes too small.”
- Wrap it up – tells what you are doing now or where you are living.“She found a new passion writing her best-selling self-help guide, Where’s The Wine? And currently co-hosts a popular You Tube film review program ‘Drunken Movie Reviews with Consuelo and Esmeralda.’ She currently lives in the San Fernando Valley and is waiting for potential husband number three to lock it down.”
Here’s how it looks when you put it all together…
Consuelo Macintosh is a native of Argentina, the home of the tango. Fluent in both Spanish and English, she decided to pursue her American Dream of becoming a suburban wife and mother of two in 1984 in Los Angeles. She earned her B.A. in Business Administration from UCLA. In the 1990s she married and started a family while running a successful clothing business out of her home. Two children and two divorces later, Consuelo is a grandmother of three forced to work in the fitting room of a major retail department store where she uses her excellent interpersonal skills telling fat women how good they look in clothes two sizes too small. She found a new passion writing her best-selling self-help guide, Where’s The Wine? And currently co-hosts a popular You Tube film review program ‘Drunken Movie Reviews with Consuelo and Esmeralda.’ She currently lives in the San Fernando Valley and is waiting for potential husband number three to lock it down.”
Make your adjustments as necessary, whether you are writing for wit and humor or conservative business professional these rules apply.
And don’t forget to update as needed when new information changes your status or you expand your vocabulary. Consuelo’s grant application is not due for a few more weeks, but at least she can sleep easier with a bio that states the facts in a tone that represents her true spirit and humor of the organization she is appealing to. Good luck, C. And the next bottle’s on me.
Last month I planned to apply to the HBO Access Writing Fellowship. I was very excited about it, too. I registered with Withoutabox (the place you can submit to festivals and contests) and I requested an e-mail notification scheduled for when the submissions were open. Yes, I read the fine print saying they would only accept the first 1000 submissions beginning Wed. 3/4/2015 at 9 am PST/ 12 pm EST – check. No day job that day so I set my alarm for 9 am and actually woke up. Halfway there, right?
No e-mail notice from Withoutabox — okay, whatever. I went to the site and at 9:08 am I was not allowed accessed. They were not accepting submissions. Fine. I tweaked my submission materials. I took a little too long because I am a jackass and when I went back to the submission page it was over. Done. No thank you, we’ve reached our cap. WTF???? I don’t know when the cap was reached, and I checked several times, but the last time I checked it was 12:41 pm.
My bad. Shame on me. I take full responsibility for not hovering over my screen until I could submit, but really, this is what the state of Diversity Fellowship has come to? Having us circle this Withoutabox site like sharks after chum just to get our work to be the fastest to pile on? I can’t be the only one who thinks a 3 1/2 hour submission window is shockingly snobbish. Is HBO even taking themselves seriously?
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