Past Winners 

 

2018 / Lisa Fox

      

From an original field of over 1,100 writers and after four intense challenges, Lisa Fox (Washington Township, NJ, USA) took home first place in the Short Screenplay Challenge 2018.  In each round of the competition, Lisa was challenged to write a short screenplay no longer than 5 pages based on a genre, location, and object assignment in just 48 hours.  Read the screenplays from each of her four challenges below along with an interview about her experience in the competition.

 

   

The Winning Screenplays

 

 

"Pilfering the Truffles" by Lisa Fox (Challenge #1)

LOGLINE: With a dash of deception and a cup of ultimatum, a wanna-be chef envisions the perfect pizza.
ASSIGNMENT: Crime Caper / A private jet / A refrigerator

LENGTH: 5 pages 

 

 

 

"Justice For The Children" by Lisa Fox (Challenge #2)
LOGLINE: "...Some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." -William Shakespeare

ASSIGNMENT: Drama / A red carpet event / A chocolate éclair

LENGTH: 5 pages 

 

 

 

"Send In The Clown" by Lisa Fox (Challenge #3)
LOGLINE: A circus clown makes a middle-aged woman smile. It changes everything.

ASSIGNMENT: Romantic Comedy / A waiting line or queue / A carrot

LENGTH: 5 pages 

 

 

 

"Civic Duty" by Lisa Fox (Challenge #4)
LOGLINE: According to the government, Jack is better off dead. Can responsible citizenship help him live on?

ASSIGNMENT: Open / Headquarters / A multi-tool

LENGTH: 5 pages 

 

 

 

Read the Interview

 

Congratulations on winning the 10th annual Short Screenplay Challenge!   How long have you been writing screenplays and how did you first get started?

Thank you!  It’s all still very surreal.

 

My first screenplay was written for the NYCM Screenplay Challenge in 2017, so I’m still fairly new to screenwriting.  I entered to challenge myself to try a new form outside of prose, and to discipline myself to be more concise and write better dialogue.  From that first competition, I was hooked! I find that I enjoy writing screenplays as much as I enjoy prose.

 

Throughout the competition, you were challenged to create short screenplays no longer than 5 pages that included genre, location, and object assignments, all within 48 hours.  What was the most challenging aspect of the competition for you?  What was the most enjoyable aspect?

There’s that fear of the blank page, the butterflies leading up to prompt drop at midnight, that question of “will I actually be able to do this?” The biggest challenge, always, is coming up with a unique idea that speaks to the reader. Creating characters who jump off the page, who make you laugh, cry, or think about the world differently and are memorable long after the story is read. Not easy in a five-page screenplay format. Not easy in 48 hours. But I love the madness of it all, the adrenaline rush that comes with these competitions, and the satisfaction of knowing that there’s something new out there in the world that didn’t exist, even in my head, two days earlier.

 

Writing a short screenplay is a bit like playing Tetris. You start with all these colorful, multi-shaped building blocks and you need to deftly squeeze them into a very small space. It’s a unique experience. 

 

Through the first three challenges you were assigned the Crime Caper, Drama, and Romantic Comedy genres for your screenplays.  In the finals, you were assigned the Open genre and chose to write Science Fiction.  Which was your favorite genre to write during the competition and which was the most challenging?

It’s funny. Every time I do one of the NYCM competitions, my husband usually stays up with me until midnight to see what prompts I’m assigned. And this time, with Crime Caper in the first challenge, I turned to him and said, “Oh well. This one’s gonna be over before it starts.” I’m NOT a crime-capery kind of writer. After I got through my pity-party, I decided I wasn’t going to stress over it. I was just going to have fun and (try to) enjoy doing something different. And you know what, I did have fun writing a completely goofball, “not me” kind of piece.

 

The next assignment was Drama – a genre I’d always hoped to get. The biggest obstacle that round was time. I had tickets for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child on Broadway – Parts 1 and 2 – so I was out of the house from about 10am until after midnight on my primary writing day. Fortunately, I quickly landed on an idea I was happy with and I didn’t struggle too much with the execution. 

 

Then there was Romantic Comedy. Like Crime Caper, I’d never written a Romantic Comedy. I laughed (then I cried!) when the assignment came through. “That was fun while it lasted!” I said to my husband. I enjoy watching romantic comedies, but writing them? Really not in my wheelhouse. The object was “carrot” and after exhausting every bad “carrot” pun I could come up with, I decided that maybe structuring the script around a pun wouldn’t be such a terrible thing. I wrote my final scene first (I cried again!) and filled in the rest of the story from there.

 

And then the finals, the dreaded Open Genre. I find I do better when I have definitive fences so came into it with a strategy on how to attack my genre – I’d simply assign one to myself. I love writing SciFi so that was my first go-to: I’d see if the prompts spoke to me in a SciFi setting, and if not, I’d move on to another genre I enjoy writing, and so on. And I had an idea that just clicked, so I ran with it.

 

In the past few years, I’ve really come to embrace the concept of “write what you know” – I find that my best work brings in aspects of my own life – whether it’s people I’ve met, things I’ve done and seen, my fears and worries, even elements of my day job (I work in pharmaceutical/healthcare market research). So if you’re writing about some crazy dystopian world, or the consequences of a terrifying piece of technology, it can still feel real. Relatable. And then you just need that great big “what if” that gets it all started. Of the four scripts I wrote for the 2018 Short Screenplay competition, my final round script is the best representation of me as a writer.

 

What was your typical process during each challenge, from receiving the assignment to uploading the finished screenplay?

The process is always the same. Agonize until the prompts hit at 11:59 pm. Commiserate with my husband and my writing friends on the assignment. Start brainstorming. See what connections I can make across the prompts. Google. Scribble down whatever comes to mind – even if it’s completely ridiculous - and try to land on some semblance of an idea. Sleep on it. Do dishes in the morning if I’m stumped. Force myself to start writing something, even if it’s terrible. Have a draft done by mid-afternoon and send to my first few trusted “alpha” readers, who will let me know what’s working and not. Then it’s back to the drawing board for the first round of edits. Back out to betas at this point, more edits. Rinse, repeat. I’ll usually read it to my husband when I’m getting to a good place. Invariably we’ll get into an argument when he starts asking questions – but 99.9% of the time his questions are good. I’d say a third of my time is spent brainstorming and writing, and the balance is editing and finessing. Which is why I always commit to an idea early. I usually upload no later than 9pm on submission night. And then I collapse.

 

You’ve participated in several NYC Midnight competitions in addition to the Short Screenplay Challenge 2018.  What is the most rewarding aspect of the challenges for you and why?  What advice would you give someone participating in the challenge for the first time?

I know I’m going to sound like some hokey infomercial, but NYCM changed my life. A few days before the Flash Fiction contest in 2016, I saw an ad on Facebook and thought, why not? I hadn’t written anything creatively in almost 20 years and really missed it. I dove in head-first, wrote an Action-Adventure piece in 48 hours, and signed up for the forums, where I have met the most amazing people – many who have become personal friends. People I talk to every day. People who walk with me on this same crazy writing journey, who are cheering by my side with each success, and picking me up with each fall. My trusted beta readers. My writing “tribe.” In addition to providing a commitment and a challenge to write creatively, multiple weekends per year, the NYCM competitions have opened my world up to writers I never would have met. The competition has pushed me to pursue a childhood dream I’d long since abandoned. And I’m forever grateful.

 

For anyone considering the NYCM challenges, my advice would be to just do it. Don’t hesitate. And don’t give up. Even if you end up with a genre that’s outside your comfort zone. Even if your scoring is not what you’d hoped it would be. Participate in the forums. The advice you get from other writers is a goldmine. Keep writing. Keep working to improve. And remember to have fun. This is supposed to be fun.

 

Do you have any plans for your screenplays or any other interesting projects coming up?

I’m usually always working on something, whether it’s sketching out new ideas, revising and updating pieces I’ve written, researching markets, or playing the submission/rejection game!  In the past few years I’ve been writing creatively, I’ve focused exclusively on short pieces – baby steps. I do have plans for bigger projects (like the novel and full-length feature I’ve always wanted to write!) – it’s just a matter of finding the time and the courage to pursue them.

 

Will you be back to defend your title in the Short Screenplay Challenge 2019?

I don’t view it as defending a title. I play for the love of the game. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. And that’s okay. For me, the greatest victory comes in creating something out of nothing, and in learning and improving with each piece I write.

 

So yes, I will absolutely be back. And, as always, I look forward to “rising to the challenge.”

 

 

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