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Duke City Shootout Contest

April 21st, 2008

Aside from a few important screenwriting contests such as the Nicholl Fellowship or the Chesterfield Writers Project, most of the contests out there suck. While there are several contests out there with a large cash prize, their actual significance in the film industry is marginal.

Sure, you get a little exposure and a few scripts have been sold as a result but no careers have been launched off any contests except the Nicholl and the Chesterfield. So for the rest of the contests, you’re basically just competing for cash. That being said, the contests with a large cash prize give you poor odds of winning because of the sheer number of entries. And since screenwriting contests are judged based off of subjective criteria, you’re probably better off going to Vegas to try to win money.

That being said, there are a few contests that are worth entering. One of them is the filmmaking festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico known as the Duke City Shootout. Although Albuquerque may be best known as the place where Bugs Bunny should have made a left turn…

Left Turn At Albiuquerque

…aspiring filmmakers should get acquainted with the city as the Duke City Shootout could become a fertile training ground and launch pad for writer-directors.

Launched in 2000 as the Flicks on 66 Wild West Digital Shootout, the idea of this film production festival was to take an entrants script in one week from the page to the screen. The first festival produced ten 10 minute shorts. The festival changed its name to the DigiFest SouthWest in 2003 and finally to its current name the Duke City Shootout in 2005.

Duke City Shootout

What makes this contest stand out is from other screenwriting contests is that the finalists actually get produced. The way the contest works is filmmakers submit a script for a short film 12 minutes or less. Using the industry standard estimate of 1 page equals 1 minute of screen time, your script should be no more than 12 pages. If your script is over 12 pages, you will get penalized per page over the limit. The deadline to submit your script is May 15th.

Once all the entries have been received, the judges will then pare down the entries to ten finalists who will be given script notes and suggestions for revisions to help rewrite and strengthen their stories. Then the finalists will be given five days to re-write their script. The judges and producers will then select 7 of the 10 final scripts to be produced.

The Duke City Shootout will then fly each of the seven finalists out to Albuquerque where they will each be assigned a producer and creative team to help them film their short. The contest will pay for all costs of equipment rentals and labor and supply each filmmaker with $1500 for location expenses, expendables and other expenses. Filmmakers will then have from the crack of dawn on July 26 to midnight of August 1st to shoot and edit their films. The Gala Premiere for all the films will be on August 2nd.

From watching the finalist films of the past two years, I can tell you that the production value of the Duke City Shootout films can be quite impressive. Some of the films have a little CGI and others have used aerial photography from a small plane or helicopter

While the production value of the films made through the Duke City Shootout are high, the quality of the writing and filmmaking leave a lot to be desired. After watching the films and reading the scripts, I have to say that the bar has been set pretty low. Many of the scripts are one note or just one joke.

I think this is largely because the Duke City Shootout contest is still relatively young and not as well known as other contests that have been around longer like Scriptapalooza. That’s good news for you as it means that you’ll have a better chance of becoming a finalist. None of the finalists that I have read or seen so far actually has a story with any resonance. If you can write a story with a beginning, a middle and an end with even a little bit of resonance, I think you would easily make the finalist stage.

I’m so sure that the Moose is going to write and submit a short script for this contest this year. I will keep you updated on the progress and results from my entry, but I urge all you aspiring writer-directors and filmmakers to write and enter your own script. This year is the first year where all the films will be shot in hi-def. With this contest, you can shoot a short film or calling card on someone else’s dime using toys and other fancy equipment and techniques that might not be available to you on your own. That’s a pretty sweet deal if you think about it.

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