Script Submissions – Common Mistakes and How to Correct Them

I curate three festivals – Sola Voce, the solo show part of Estrogenius Festival, which will celebrate its 13th year this fall; and my two Stage Left festivals– the Left Out Festival, a LGBTQ festival every April, and The Women at Work Festival, which will be Sep 23-Oct 4, 2013.
Every year I see basic errors in script submissions– errors that affect how I make my evaluations. Here are some important do’s and don’ts.
1. Formatting – Before you send in a script, be sure it has a title, a copyright date (or registration with the Writer’s Guild) and contact info (unless the submission guidelines require you not to put contact info on the script). Spell check and format it correctly. If it’s a digital file, be sure the name of the file matches your script. I need to be able to find the file on my computer and if it’s named 07free – and your script is called My Life and Times, I won’t be able to find it. You’d also be amazed how many people send files with the name MyScript_firstdraft. If it’s your first draft, it’s probably not ready to submit. And even if it is, you don’t want me to know it’s your first draft.
2. Finish Writing It –Don’t ever send in a script with this note “This part is not written yet, but it will be about the time I went to Japan.” Are you kidding me? How can I review something that is not yet written? This makes you look lazy and amateurish. Professionals do not send in unfinished work.
3. Video – If you include a DVD or YouTube video link, be sure that it’s a good representation of your show. A video with poor sound quality is so annoying that it works against you – likewise, a video where you can’t see the show for the heads on the back row. If you had a bad night and your performance wasn’t up to par, you’re better off leaving it to my imagination.
4. Details – If there is a setting, time and place, character description or other detail you can offer that will inform my decision, be sure to include it. If it’s about an obscure person or event, offer supporting materials or links.
5. Appropriateness – Be sure your show is appropriate for the venue or festival. Don’t submit a large-cast play to a solo festival. If the festival specifies that you must provide your own director and cast your own show, be prepared to do that if your play is selected. A little advance work will save you and the curator time and effort.
6. Audience – Be prepared to bring your own audience. Ideally, festivals have been created to help you showcase your work to the public. (I’ll write a follow-up blog post about festivals that were created solely to make money for the festival presenters – a pox on them). But even the most benign and supportive of festival presenters need YOU to bring in the audience. So include in your submission all promo materials and ideas, the size of your mailing list, and other means by which you’ll bring in paying customers. Keep in mind that if you perform your show publicly in the two months before the festival, that will drain your potential audience, which will not be appealing to the presenters.
In script submission, as in all things, put yourself in the position of the curator. What would YOU like to see in a submission? Take your time, be thoughtful and comprehensive, and provide the best possible version of your work. Remember, you only get one chance to make a first

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