Dream package prize awaits CSN script contest winner

The Chicago Screenwriters Networks’ screenwriting contest is officially underway for the fourth consecutive year and the enthusiastic new CSN board is determined to make this year’s contest the biggest and best yet.   

With the super grand prize a screenwriter’s dream-come-true, CSN expects a record number of entries this year, from well beyond the group’s 400 members.

The contest is open to aspiring writers in Chicago and the Midwest, starting with submissions by the early deadline of Feb. 29 through to the late deadline of May 15.

“The prizes are better than just money,” says screenwriter and CSN president Colin Costello, “and the companies who have agreed to read the winning scripts are stellar.”

Instead of a traditional cash grand prize, the contest committee opted to give the winner an all expense-paid trip to Los Angeles to take a meeting a set up by the CSN with an agent, manager, consultant and/or producer.

The grand prize package – a four day, three night trip for two includes airfare, hotel and rental car — is valued at $2,500.

A number of different types of L.A. companies have agreed to read the five finalist scripts and help determine the grand prize and other four winners.

They so far include executives at Lionsgate, Benderspink, Lawrence Bender Productions, Original Artists, Industry Entertainment, Madhouse Entertainment, Andrew kersey Management, Jennifer Grisanti’s Writer on the Verge, and Danny Manus’ No Bull Script Productions.

“These names are just the tip of the iceberg,” notes Costello, “as we expect more companies to become involved.”

Judges, who will be local and from Hollywood, “come from a variety of backgrounds and some of have been readers for big talent agencies, like WME, to give real authority to the competition,” he says.

Prizes for other winners

Four second prize winners will each receive $250 cash, plus Final Draft Version 8 software, two pitches from Virtual Pitchfest, a signed copy of the Screenwriter’s Bible, a script consultation and plaques.

The grand prize winner also takes home a crystal award, dubbed the “Sonny,” in honor of Sonny Wareham, the former CSN president and contest founder.

CSN guarantees to pitch all five finalist scripts for one year after the winners are announced at the Mayne Stage Sept. 9

Based on previous years’ submissions, the most popular genres tend to be drama, comedy and horror.  Last year there were a significant number of family stories submitted.

The contest, says Rich Watkins, board member and VP/contest, “is an amazing opportunity for Midwest screenwriters to get the recognition they deserve.”

Contest fills a gap

CSN’s full blown script contest is the only one in existence in the Midwest at this time, to the best of anyone’s knowledge. It has effectively taken the place of the Illinois/Chicago Film Office’s biannual script contest that started in the early 1990s and fizzled out several years ago.

“Our mission statement is all about access to Hollywood, and this year’s L.A. prize package is in line with our mission statement and to get Midwestern voices heard,” says Costello.

Further along the lines of access, CSN is planning a July 7-9 Chicago Pitchfest, with L.A. executives who can make things happen as Pitchfest recipients.