The BlueCat Story
When Gordy Hoffman started a screenplay contest in 1998, he founded it through the eyes of an aspiring screenwriter. Naming the screenwriting contest after Blue, his late black Tomcat, the BlueCat Screenplay Competition began with a top cash prize of $2000, while setting its entry fee low ($20 for up to two scripts!). In addition, all finalists would appear in a full-page announcement in the Hollywood Reporter. We would go on to receive 596 scripts from 384 entrants, and when we announced our winner, we didn’t even think to let our entrants know who won! We did post it on our website, but failed to mail notification to our entrants.
Shortly after we made our call for entries for our second year, we received a complaint about the lack of notification of contests results. We called the entrant on the phone and apologized. Subsequently, the entrant informed us they were re-entering. That interaction proved to be the inspiration to provide feedback, over the phone, to every person who entered BlueCat. (This concept of supporting entrants with script notes on their work would be adopted by many screenplay contests in subsequent years.) We raised the cash prize to $3000.
We began the process of providing script feedback by telephone. Some were happy, some were not, some were hard to reach, and often people requested a hard copy. On one level, we felt more supportive of our screenwriters, but the feedback often came too late, and in some instances, due to logistics or endless phone tag, not at all.
Our third year, we raised the cash prize to $4000, and limited our finalists to five.
Our fourth year came, and our entry fee remained $20 for up to two scripts. We had writers actually suggest raising our entry fee. After some one entered eight screenplays (for $80) the year before, we decided we would raise our entry fee to $25. The grand prize was now $5000, and after two years of providing feedback by phone, we offered the option of receiving it via email. We figured some might prefer this format, but when nearly everyone elected to get their feedback by email, we were stunned.
In our fifth year, it was official: everyone would receive screenplay analysis via email. In 2004, our sixth year, after years of requests by our writers to enter online, we started accepting electronic entries. Subsequently, BlueCat had the largest increase in entries in our history.
Heather Schor soon joined the BlueCat team and helped develop our partnership with the High Falls Film Festival, a festival dedicated to honoring women in film, by holding live readings of screenplays authored by women named BlueCat finalists.
In 2005, we retired our original website and unveiled a new logo and online home, while looking forward to our second year at High Falls Film Festival. Our 2005 winner, GARY THE TENNIS COACH, was sold and slated for production starring Seann William Scott.
In 2006, we raised our prize money from $5000 to $16,000, with $1500 going to four finalists and the winner receiving $10,000. We received 1782 entries, an increase of nearly 80%.
BlueCat chose to stop accepting paper entries in 2007, out of respect for the environment, becoming the first competition to do so. We opened up entries for the BlueCat Lab, which accepted pitches and shorts along with feature screenplays, with a chance for three writers to come to Los Angeles and workshop their projects with local professionals and mentors.
For our 2008 competition, writers were now given the option to submit their script early, receive their analysis and resubmit before the deadline, supporting a more rapid development of the screenplays in our community. We were very proud to name our first international winner in 2008, a precursor to our expansion to recognize screenwriters from abroad.
The same year, Gordy began taking screenwriting workshops to different cities, coming face to face with BlueCat writers and the challenges they tackle with their screenplays.
In 2010, we created the Cordelia Award (best screenplay from the UK) and the Joplin Award (best screenplay outside USA, Canada and the UK). This took the mission of BlueCat beyond our home country, recognizing the accomplishments of writers around the word.
Our Movie Title Contest was also started in 2010, where entrants voted on the best title submitted early to the competition.
In 2011, after witnessing the number of the major screenplay competitions landing on the same deadlines in the spring, we decided to move the BlueCat deadline to the Fall. This allows our writers to enter their favorites in the Spring, and have the extra time to prepare their submission for the Fall.
Even more significant was our decision to provide all entrants with two written analyses, rather than one. This provides each writer a richer perspective on their work, while allowing BlueCat a better chance at making sure nothing slips through the cracks.
In October 2011, our new website was launched, to better serve our writers and carry our message of discovery and development to our new friends, as we continue to build our community, humbly started 13 years ago by one writer.