Before we launched into a new screenwriting contest with SoCreate’s Screenwriter Stimulus, we wanted to know: Are our contests helping writers? That’s our number one goal, of course, followed by spreading the word about SoCreate. So, to find out, we caught up with our most recent contest winner Zachary Rowell. Zachary won our “So, Write Your Bills Away” Sweepstakes in late 2019, so it’s been almost a year since we handed out that honor. We paid his bills for three months so he could work less and write more. And you know what? It worked! I was so encouraged to hear of Zachary’s recent successes, some of which he can attribute to winning our sweepstakes. That’s why we do this. It is a great reminder.
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If you’re still thinking about entering SoCreate’s Screenwriter Stimulus, I hope this interview with Zachary encourages you to throw your hat in the ring.
It’s been one year since you entered SoCreate’s Write Your Bills Away Sweepstakes. What prompted you to submit to the contest?
Has it been that long already? Geez. It feels like it was only a few months ago. But, uh, obviously, the potential to be paid to write a screenplay was enticing. Honestly, it was just such a simple thing to enter, so why not? It was free; all you had to do (initially) was submit a line about why you deserve to win. I didn’t see any downside. I first saw the contest being shared around on Twitter.
It’s been about eight months since you finished writing “Stillwater Runs Deep.” What’s happened with the screenplay since then?
A lot. It was optioned a month or so after the ~sweepstakes~ ended, and since then, there has been a lot of rewriting. Thankfully, everything is set now. I can’t talk too much about it. I hate to be one of those people, but apparently, it’s true. I always thought people just said that to be vague or sound more important than they actually are, but it turns out ... YOU REALLY CAN’T SAY ANYTHING UNTIL IT’S PUBLIC!
What are you working on now?
...myself. Constantly. But also, I just started writing a new feature last week actually. I’m really excited about it. I’m also fixing up some old scripts. And of course, I still have the daily freelance writing. Have to pay the bills!
What was it like to write a screenplay in 90 days? Have you done it before? Would you do it again?
Honestly, I loved it. I work better when there is a deadline in place, so knowing I had to have some sort of first draft in 90 days, it was more than enough motivation to finish it. I actually did do it again! The next project I wrote (well the next, next?) after “Stillwater Runs Deep,” I wrote in 30 days while in quarantine. I then rewrote it for a week or two, put it on the blcklst, and it was optioned as well! Once again, I can’t say too much, but things are looking good. Might have exciting news (that will be shareable!) soon.
Did the contest win change anything for you as a writer now? Did your process change?
I’m not sure it “changed” anything, but it did confirm that this is what I want to do. Getting paid to write screenplays was as fulfilling as I had always hoped it would be. I’d say I write more now! But uh, I think everything and every experience can help your screenwriting career if you look at it in the right way. The experience as a whole definitely helped my screenwriting journey. It was a motivational shot in the arm.
You said the cash prize was crucial, but did the pressure from the writing community and weekly check-ins help, too? What else did you like about the contest that you’d like to tell other writers?
Of course! I didn’t want to disappoint. I wanted to have a completed feature to show everyone. I don’t handle stress well. I’m an incredibly anxious person, but when it comes to stress involving writing (as in deadlines, etc.) I seem to revel in it. So, the weekly check-ins helped a lot with that.
I liked how casual the contest was. Everyone at SoCreate was so nice and supportive, and I felt like they had good intentions. Some companies (especially in the screenwriting world) will take advantage of writers looking for a break, but this contest/sweepstake is completely free to enter. There’s really no risk, but there is a lot of reward.
Anything else you want to add?
The most important thing you can do to become a better writer is to write. There are no shortcuts. You must write. So if you find yourself going through a bit of writer’s block, remember the only way out is to write. Also, be nice to each other.
Cheers, Zachary. You’re so deserving, and we’re thrilled to have helped you along on your screenwriting journey.
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