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Jen Arzt: Program Director of Script Frenzy!

They might not admit it, but every writer needs a muse. And that's just what Script Frenzy! is trying to be-- on a large scale. This free, month-long writing event pits you against a thirty-day deadline where your goal is to deliver at least 100 pages of screenplay. Filmmaker.com interviewed Jen Arzt, Script Frenzy's Program Director, to find out more.

FM.C: What is Script Frenzy?

JEN: Simply put, Script Frenzy is an international month-long writing event. The challenge is to sit down and write 100 pages in the 30 days of April. It is free and there are no prizes, no judges, and no promises of agents who will read your script. Not your typical contest, eh! The event is open to all types of scripts including screenplays, stage plays, TV shows, short films, comic book scripts, adaptation of novels. As long as the total page count is 100 pages at the end of April, you win!

It is a way to face an unyielding deadline with others as over-caffeinated and excited as you are to get story from imagination to the light of day.

The website has a great online community with forums buzzing day and night, the writer’s resource area which is always growing and changing with words of wisdom by professionals, and pep talks from yours truly. One of my favorite features on the writer’s profile page is the progress bar. Seeing the level rise closer and closer to the top everyday offers a strange sort of undeniable motivation. Funny how a few pixels a day adds up to a realized goal.

Municipal liaisons around the world hold weekly write-ins at coffee shops and libraries. Launch parties, mid-way parties and the Wrap parties are a fantastic way for the writers who often feel isolated due to the nature of writing to connect with others going through the same process.

Hopefully Script Frenzy will inspire people to write – write like crazy – and give an everlasting sense of confidence. I think the Script Frenzy tagline sums it all up: Your Ticket to Creative Adventure.

FM.C: Who or What is the inspiration for Script Frenzy?

JEN: Script Frenzy is the second event put on by the Office of Letters and Light. National Novel Writing Month, which is going into its 10th year, was the first program and takes place every November. Over 100,000 people world wide take part in the event. It is amazing. Truly amazing. Who would have thought that so many people could be motivated to sit down and write! Unlike Script Frenzy, National Novel Writing Month uses total word-count (rather than page count) as the finish line. 50,000 words in one month! Quite a feat!

I believe that with so many motivated people starting a second program that focused on other writing formats was a natural step.

FM.C: What are your responsibilities with Script Frenzy?

JEN: My role as program director is to keep the event running along side the fearless Tavia Stuart, program director of the Script Frenzy Young Writers Program, and Chris Baty, founder and motivator-extraordinaire of the Office of Letters and Light. Script Frenzy is in its sophomore year and we have been working on improving the event based on feedback from last year, spreading the word, and fundraising. Our superstar programmer, Russ Uman, has been working with the entire Office of Letters and Light team to improve the web site.

The event is designed to help writers overcome the blank page, so I am working on getting as many resources for the writers as possible. My goal is to have pros write in with advice, answer questions, and provide good-old fashion moral support. Knowing that a pro who has been through the process many times still gets stuck at a place you find yourself stuck at can be just enough motivation to get your fingers moving on the keyboard again.

I hope to keep spirits high when times are great, and even higher when the daunting task seems overwhelming.

I was a participant last year and the advice and leadership of the entire Script Frenzy family kept me going through the hard patches. Knowing that someone out there was rooting you on and wanting you to cross the finish line was my muse. I hope to continue what has been an amazingly motivating event.

Last, but certainly not least, I participate in the event. I will be on the ride, alongside every other writer, racing toward a script written from page 1 to page 100 in 30 days.

FM.C: Where is Script Frenzy based?

JEN: Script Frenzy is one of the events put on by the Office of Letters and Light, which is based in Oakland, California. That said Script Frenzy is an online event so participants all over the world can join. Municipal liaisons coordinate local write-ins and other face-to-face events.

The Office of Letters and Light is entering its 10th year with its flagship program, National Novel Writing Month. With over 100,000 participants NaNoWriMo can be found in classrooms world wide. We have high expectations for Script Frenzy in the coming years.

FM.C: Since it's free, how do you guys raise the funds to at least pay for your overhead?

JEN: Donations, donations, donations! We rely on the participants loving us and supporting us through tax-deducible donations. We also have some ever-so-chic t-shirt, totes, and hats for sale in our shop.

FM.C: Is this a contest? Is there a prize, and if so what is it?

JEN: It’s a contest of sorts. Meaning there are rules but there are no prizes. By midnight on May 1st all participants who have reached 100 pages get an awesome graphic in their profile proclaiming the proud fact that they’ve won, winner’s icons for websites and blogs, and a certificate that they have to print off.

I guess the prize is the completed, beautifully flawed first draft of your script, and the never-ending knowledge that you can do it. 100 pages in 30 days is more than possible. Armed with that knowledge, participants will never look at a challenge the same way again. And that, is pretty cool.

The feeling at the end of April is more than worth its weight in sleepless night, parties missed and cups of coffee.

FM.C: Can you enter more than one screenplay?

JEN: Yep. Again, as long as your cumulative page count before April runs out is 100 pages, you win!

FM.C: Does it still count if you write with someone else?

JEN; Absolutely! Writer teams need to have a grand total of 100 pages by 11:59 local time on April 30 just like individual writers to win. This is a great way for people working on shorter format pieces to get multiple scripts written and win the event.

FM.C: What happens to the screenplays after they're submitted? Does anyone read 'em?

JEN: Nope. We ask writers to scramble their text – in a backup document – and upload it. Through the magic of counting and averaging, the validator determines if the goal was hit. If it was, you are officially declared a winner and your scrambled document is deleted. There is one exception. If you donate $1000 dollars or more to the Office of Letter and Light and win the event, I will read your script and provide honest notes.

FM.C: Is this a competition for seasoned writers as well, or is it catered more for beginners?

JEN: Script Frenzy is for everyone and anyone. Writers with years of experience and millions made through their writing efforts are welcome along side those who have never written more than their name on a piece of paper.

The idea is to get stories told. Period. If you have a creative whim, a hard-planned outline, or have ever thought, “I should write a script,” we want you in.

Who knows, maybe the beginners will find their scripts and stories during April that will turn them into pros. We all have to start somewhere, right?

FM.C: This Young Writer's program sound really interesting. Can you tell me more about that?

JEN: The Young Writer’s Program (http://ywp.scriptfrenzy.org) provides a venue for teachers and their students to participate in the Script Frenzy challenge. The YWP website provides kid-friendly forums for our young participants to share scriptwriting tips and ideas, free curriculum for teachers, scriptwriting resources and workbooks for students, and encouragement from the YWP staff. Thanks to Renaissance Learning, the Office of Letters and Light also has 25 AlphaSmart Neos to lend out to classrooms that would benefit from using word processors during the event.

Just like our main program, Script Frenzy’s Young Writers Program encourages kids to bash out a script in 30 days, but we allow teachers and students to work together to set an attainable, yet challenging, page-count goal before they begin. Sign-ups for Script Frenzy’s YWP begin March 1, and we are looking forward to re-launching our site then with new curriculum, more extensive workbooks, and improved writing resources.

FM.C: What are your favorite screenplays?

JEN: I have too many! To name a few of my favorites; Melissa Mathison’s E.T., Wes Anderson & Owen Wilson’s The Royal Tenenbaums, Charlie Kaufman’s Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, John August’s adaptation of Big Fish, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, and Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Return of the King.

See, too many!

FM.C: Who are your favorite screenwriters?

JEN: I always wish I had a great answer to this sort of question. I find it too hard to pick one writer that I like script after script to call my favorite.

FM.C: What is the goal of Script Frenzy? What do you want Script Frenzy to be remembered for?

JEN: We hope that every participant has a blast trying to hit 100 pages in 30 days. It is a crazy challenge, but it is so fun to be a part of you can’t help but have good time even if you don’t cross the finish line.

I also hope that people keep Script Frenzy in mind throughout the year. Sometimes we let life get in the way of our dreams. And, having one month circled year after year dedicated to the pursuit of dreams is nothing short of amazing.

FM.C: If you could describe Script Frenzy in one word, what would it be?

JEN: Inspiring!