December 31st. The deadline for all scripts to be evaluated in the first round of the Amazon Studios contest. Questions and speculation regarding the nuts and bolts of the competition have been flying around the forums almost since the November 15 debut of the site. This week, AS helped end some of the back and forth by addressing how the contest will run in this forum post. Material from the post also comprised an article that was delivered directly to my email inbox.
The entries passed the 2000 mark a couple days ago…now at 2154. Often, for a contest, there will be a flurry of entries at the last minute…literally, the last hour or so before a deadline. Contests like Nicholl or Austin Film Festival will sometimes suffer overloaded servers as everyone submits at the same time. The progress on this site has been fairly steady however, and I don’t foresee an avalanche of submissions. While in some ways it’s “free,” in other ways (I assume anyone reading this has followed the 18-month option debate ad nauseum) it is a more expensive than the $60 bucks we spend in a last minute panic. Also, because of the month-to-month, there is a smaller sense of regret. While for most competitions you have to wait another year before submitting, with another opportunity available in a mere thirty days, there’s less need for panicked, last minute shopping.
It’s interesting to browse the AS forums, to see how excited a few entrants are about this contest. They remind me of myself– before. When I lived in a small and far-away town, I used to send a short story to a journal and then wait. I actually anticipated a result–thought of a person reading something I wrote, and then responding to it. That was before I entered my first MFA program, where other students, more worldly, told me that they sent their stories out in batches of 20, 30 or even 60 to find that reader who would read their story, and pass it on to the editor. They explained that it was a numbers game and a game of chance, and that as an artist, the key is to try to keep the art and the business as separate in your mind as possible, so that creation is unaffected by what you have to do to get anyone, anywhere, to pay attention to what you have created. Hanging out with those same fellow students also revealed to me how far my writing needed to travel before it would be competitive with what was out there.
When it comes to submissions, I have followed their advice. I rarely think of a contest entry once I have sent it into the universe. And although experience has now led me to expect that I will make the semi-finals or whatever is the equivalent of being in the top ten percent, the idea of winning a big prize has such a feel of unreality that I can scarcely contemplate it.
The Amazon Studios experience, by its very nature–and by that I mean its consistent and dynamic online presence, not the monetary reward–is harder to keep at a distance. It has a presence in my consciousness. And yet, the possibility of actually winning seems just as far away. I’m hoping, in the coming months and years, to have an improvement to my writing that I can feel, that will make me think I belong in the very highest percentile, for contests or jobs, and maybe I’ll start to anticipate that higher level of recognition, to hope for it. That could happen. But I don’t think I can ever recapture the purer feeling of hope that I used to feel when I walked to a small town post office and mailed off my 9″x 12″ goldenrod envelope.
P.S. I want to mention that I’m very grateful to, and touched by, a number of friends who have recently read my script and left thoughtful critiques on the site. I’m far from at the top of the list, but their feedback has kept my script on the first page (which shows the first 30 projects by “popularity”), which has been a –perhaps arbitrary–goal for me.