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Topic: Should contest judges decide after 2 pages?

Author: Susan Russell Posted: 07/04/10 03:30 AM

There's quite the viral thread over at DDP on the Margaux Froley/Silver Screenwriting dust-up: http://messageboard.donedealpro.com/boards/showthread.php?t=56014

Here's a cache of the original thread which has since been removed: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:ElCk-69hNMoJ:thisisyourpilotspeaking.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/first-10/+%22I+had+a+few+things+pop+up+last+night+%22&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

The author posted a retraction in which which she apologized for her tone, but not for her actions: http://thisisyourpilotspeaking.wordpress.com/2010/07/03/retraction/

In short, this contest judge, who is apparently a judge for Silver Screenwriting (though that is possibly not the contest in question), bragged about going through 75 scripts in 3 hours. This is less than 2.5 minutes per script. Her post certainly was snarky, but it was the content that was really disturbing. She will pass on a script if the title page is not correctly formatted and may pass if the writer is not from LA or the script has a distant setting or if it contains quaint vocabulary such as the word "nattily." She appears to have not read more than 10 pages even of the "good" scripts.

Some people in the thread defend her, saying this is the same way studio execs, agents and managers evaluate screenplays. Of course the big difference is that the screenwriter is not paying execs, agents or managers to judge fairly between a set of scripts.

Maybe all contests should go the BlueCat route and give at least minimal feedback to reassure writers that their pages are being read.

Do most MB'ers assume that most contests are not reading the full script? If so, how much do you expect them to read -- 25 pages? 10? 2? Possibly just the title page?

I think there is at least an implied agreement that if they take your money they will read the whole script. If not, they should state so clearly and up front. Or am I just hopelessly naive?

Author: James Pickering Posted: 07/04/10 04:50 AM

They should state how the process works in my opinion. If they're only going to read the first ten pages then fair enough, but state that in the contest details.

If they're passing on scripts cause you're not in a certain location then that's harsh. Studio execs can do it, but like you say they don't owe the writer anything.

However, if you've paid money into a contest you would like to think the money hasn't been a total waste and they'll at least get past the title page.

Author: Janet Hogate Posted: 07/04/10 06:48 AM

Back when I first started entering contests I read somewhere that the unwritten rule in a contest was 30 pages. All contests require their readers to read at least 30 pages of every script. I didn't like that but I accepted it and always worked very hard on my 1st 30.

Now, since Ive been reading other new writers scripts I think 30 is fair because I personally have a hard time getting past one if the writing skills are bad and its a genre I dont care for. But of course Im not getting paid to do it.

And......I have read scripts where the 1st page was full of formatting errors but when I read the entire script I really liked the story. It was original and perfect for the screen. So, its kind of stupid to read just the first page and toss it because formatting errors can be easily fixed. But coming up with a good story isn't.

Like James the location issue is disturbing because I live in and write about Iowa which the location doesn't have a traditional mass appeal. But Iowa is an extremely pretty state and has huge tax credits for filming there so again I think they are missing out if they pitch scripts that arnt located in California.

Anyway, I think before discussing all of this we need to find out how true it really is and if it is true for THAT particular contest then you can always not enter it. I personally can accept 30 pages. But not 1 or the location issue. Please find out how true this is.

Author: Michael Scott Posted: 07/04/10 08:46 AM

I'm fine with 30 pages. Unless you're paying extra for coverage. I've gotten feedback from more comps. than I'd like to admit and a lot of it's out of left field. That or they just read my log line and brief synop. and took it from there. Bottom line, it's a crap shoot.

Author: Nick Stoli Posted: 07/04/10 08:59 AM

No. I have no problem with a studio or agency being dismissive of my screenplays, but not a screenplay competition that I'm paying money to read my script. The entire script. I could list about a thousand good movies that didn't dazzle me in the first 2 minutes. To dismiss a screenplay after just 2 or even 10 pages is BS. After 30, okay...I can understand, though not accept -- unless the contest explicitly states that one's entire screenplay might not be read.

I'd love to rip on this judge some more, but she's just being honest. If we don't get feedback on our scripts, the chances are extremely good they are not being read.

Author: Dana Garrity Posted: 07/04/10 09:24 AM

My two cents. It doesn't take more than two pages to pass on a script. If the tone isn't set from the first page, obviously the writer has some work to do. Also, if a script showcases typos/errors on the first couple pages, why should someone waste their time reading it when they know the end results?

That is where the problem lies.

If a writer pays an entry fee to have their script read, it should be. There's two things the writer can do to ensure a script is read thoroughly.

First, the writer can pay for notes.

Second, the writer can create an amazing script that forces the reader to excitedly turn the page.

Fair? I think not. But, with the amount of entries a reader must get through and the minimal reimbursement they receive, it is unrealistic to assume they will read something that is of lower quality (in the early rounds), unless you pay extra for it.

Author: Janet Hogate Posted: 07/04/10 11:28 AM

Really good points Dana.

Author: James F. Hollmer Posted: 07/04/10 01:45 PM

Sounds to me like this young lady is sluggish, simplistic, inimitable, visiceral, not neat, trim, or smart. Not fashionable in appearance or dress. Not dapper, chick, spruce, smart, nifty, snazzy, trendy or neat.

Author: Paula Smith Posted: 07/04/10 05:21 PM

Obviously, you can't force a person to read past two pages, or the title, if they don't want to. But, individuals running a contest should make sure that they only hire individuals who are going to present their contest in the best light (if they want participants to continue to buy their service, i.e. contest entry).

It is up to each contest reader to advance only those scripts that would make a good movie. It might need work. It's not unusual for scripts to be tweaked while filming. But each script advanced should make a good movie and the only way to really know that is to read the whole script.

A reader who bases their review on only the first two pages is doing a disservice to both the writer and their employer. How many scripts have been turned down numerous times and then went on to be box office sensations?

The reader/writer may have only been trying to get their point across. But, if they truly reject a script because the writer hales from Hong Kong, then, maybe all writers entering script contests should just get an LA PO box for the idiots of the reader world.

Author: Marjory Kaptanoglu Posted: 07/04/10 05:23 PM

Julia Gray of Silver Screenwriting posted this in her blog (before any of this blew up):

''I Do Not Have Time to Read This Script So I'm judging my behind off today as I prepare to announce the top 50 quarterfinalists in the Silver Screenwriting Competition tomorrow. I have 70 scripts in this round and 20 scripts have to go. How do I choose? Well, I have to vet the notes on the top 70 that the earlier judges and readers left for me and I have to go through them quickly and compare them side by side in rapid succession. The scripts that engage me I keep putting in the ''maybe'' pile and script that don't are an easy elimination. I keep adding maybes. But is THIS maybe better than THAT maybe? What's the page count? Are the first few pages engaging? Why did it make the cut thus far at all? How is the dialogue, how are the characters? I have to work quickly. I don't have all day. Well, I do have all day but the deadline looms. And this there's one script — this ONE script that I can't stop reading. I mean, it's hypnotic. It's clearly going into the quarterfinalist pile and probably will be considered upward of that. But I need to put it down. I need to keep judging. But this writer — man, this writer — I just want to say to you, and you don't know who you are — THANKS for slowing me down. I say that with love. Wow.''

It's nice that she fell in love with one of the scripts. But the way she talks about the others: how fast she has to judge them, and how she may be eliminating according to page count or by reading no more than the first few pages, and how she is using the notes of the earlier judges (shouldn't each round judge come to his or her own conclusions?)& this seems quite similar to, though not as snarky as, Margaux's attitude.

Also, I think it's a real problem when contests do not insist on anonymous judging. The judges should see a title and nothing else. Nicholl's states very strongly that they want to see the title only, because all judges have prejudices, whether they try to suppress them or not, regarding where people come from, what the writer's gender is, whether there are one or two writers, and so on.

Author: L.J. Wright Posted: 07/04/10 06:02 PM

I have to say that this is scary for someone like me who doesn't have the money to just splurg on contest. The simple fact is that people paid to have their scripts read, not judged based on titles or wheter or not someone likes the genre you wrote.

There are contest out there that are specifically for the "First Ten Pages" and Dazzle me in three pages script contest. If that was how the contest was going to be judged, I think she should have let people know before they paid.

It makes me wonder if the actress from True Blood, who entered this contest, was automatically moved to the top of the list because of reasons that have nothing to do with her writing ability.

I'm not saying this contest is bad or good, legit or not, but if people are paying you and you're telling them "Our judges will read your script, and evalute you on, and judge you based on..." then that's what you should do. If not simply state "our judges will read the first page of your script and if it doesn't interest this first reader then oh well, you're out of luck." But of course you can't make money like that.

And even if you are just skimming over scripts, why tell on yourself?

Author: Andrew Duncan Posted: 07/04/10 06:26 PM

There's two completely separate issues being discussed here...

1)Is it right for a potential buyer/agency/management company to toss a script based on reading only a few pages?

Absolutely. Nobody owes you one page or thirty. Anyone who says otherwise needs to tackle a slush pile for a few weeks. I promise you'll change your tune. Anyone who reads a lot of scripts day in day out knows what has the potential to be good and what is definitely bad on the first page. It's their job.

and...

2) Is it right for a contest that you paid money to enter to toss a script after only reading a few pages?

The bottom line is that this is really up to you. The reality is if they do toss your script after a few pages then realistically so will anyone in this industry. However, it's your money and with websites like this one you have all the information you need to know the reputation of how these hundreds of organizations run their contests.

Author: L.J. Wright Posted: 07/04/10 06:40 PM

Julie Gray - from her blog "I have my eye on about 10 or 12 that I particularly like but on the other hand, I read one that was SO excellent for the first 75 pages — great, right? — and then tanked out with a confusing, illogical, lazy ending."

If you can take the time to read a script and it's good at the start, then tanks, you've wasted time, no? So can you take the time to read something that isn't great at the start, but might get better at the ending?

I think all scripts have to be tweaked no matter what stage of the game their in. And there are lots of scripts that aren't great and get made into movies.

In any case, as far as the contest goes. If they paid, then their scripts should have been read all the way through and judged based on a whole script.

The thing with not taking something into careful consideration is that you might be passing on the next JJ Abrams or Shane Black.

I just really don't think any contest should ever say "I don't have time to read this script" I mean, how is that good for business? Even if you don't mean it in a harmful way.

In any case things are how they are. It happened, now people know and hopefully the people who do win get some good use out of their prizes.

And I think that those who are in the top 50 would appreciate having their scripts read all the way through. I mean, they made it to the top 50 so I think they deserve that much. They did PAY for that. Personally, if I said I was going to read someone's script I would read the script no matter what.

Author: Janet Hogate Posted: 07/04/10 07:59 PM

I wonder if we are not taking these "blogs" all out of context. I mean we dont know what the actual judging system for that contest is and... those two judges could actually be leaving out some very important words that explain everything.

It sounds to me, in both cases, the scripts had all been read before and these two judges were more like organizing them. Possibly these scripts were all scored and they were simply throwing out the lowest scores and passing the highest ones on. They just failed to mention that in their BLOG.

Thats the problem with blogs. They can be easily be misunderstood. We simply dont have enough information here to judge these judges or the contest. Yet.

Author: L.J. Wright Posted: 07/04/10 08:23 PM

I'm not sure but from reading the blog I get the feeling that when she was figuring out the top 50, from the 70 that made it into her lap, that she was rushed.

And there has been some discussion on the Done Deal message board that what was listed as the reason's for scripts not making it, is somewhat off as far as what producers/agents really take into consideration.

I don't think she was trying to be mean, or anything like that, but I don't know...you don't want to give any impression that your contest is just skimming over scripts because they're rushed.

I read both blogs, and the person who claimed to read 75 scripts in 3 hrs, because they were just skimming over the first two or ten and in some cases on the title page, said one of their reasons for skipping over a person's script as being "They put :A Screenplay after the title."

Author: Irin Evers Posted: 07/04/10 09:04 PM

Thanks for posting the blog. I wanted to read it.

But you should also know that the writer later claimed that she was not referring to Silver even though she has judged it before.

Author: L.J. Wright Posted: 07/04/10 09:13 PM

I know that. I'm referring to Julie's blog and then the other person's. Both similar situations I think, only Julie wasn't bragging about rushing. She only gives the impression that she was rushed when making her choices. And it has been said that this person has judged for the Silver contest in the past.

I mean that Julie seems rushed, in her blog it seems like she was rushed. I don't know what's the deal. I really don't.

But WHEN I break into the industry, I'm going to make sure that struggling writers who actually have talent get a fair shot without having to wonder if their scripts are being read or tapping into their bill money. It'll just be based on story and talent, potential. That's what I believe it should be about, and I'll always believe that.

Author: Andrea Albin Posted: 07/04/10 09:46 PM

I'll be honest- it doesn't surprise me. Which is why I took over as director for SCRIPTOID the minute it was offered. I didn't want us to fall into that trap.

If you're PAYING for a competition- then boom. You should get what you paid for- a judgement based on the entire script. Unless it's in the rules.

It really isn't that hard to put the right number of judges with the right number of scripts.

Author: James F. Hollmer Posted: 07/04/10 09:57 PM

Unfortunately there is a good chance that this has gone on for a very long time.

There have been stories comming out of several contests under the table so to speak for a while now.

Im real suprised that this topic has not come up before. If there are any former readers out there with stories it would be great If you would respond.

Thats why, one of several reasons that lists get started about rogue contests. Im sure this has been the norm for sometime. At the very least this reader has been reading for quite a while.

Author: Marjory Kaptanoglu Posted: 07/04/10 09:59 PM

Irin, this is from Margeaux's apology blog:

"I would also like to point out that my post in no way reflects the attitude and business philosophy of my colleague Julie Gray or the Silver Screenwriting contest or The Script Department. Julie is a dedicated mamma hen to writers everywhere, a well-versed businesswoman, and I know how much she truly cares about all writers she works with. She does not work or approach writing in any of the ways my post may have assumed. Dragging her good name and reputation into this is a personal and professional dark spot that is entirely my fault."

Doesn't that sound as if her original post must have referred to the Silver Screenwriting contest? And if not, why not say so here without identifying what the "actual" contest was? She could immediately reinstate Silver's good name by stating that she was referring to another contest... if that were the case.

Author: Michael Leider Posted: 07/04/10 10:42 PM

My single purpose for entering screenplay contests is to find out if my work is any good. I naively expected that I would get a complete read for my entry fee. In a recent script, after making quarter finalist in a couple contest with no feedback, I entered Blue Cat for the notes. They were definitely worth the entry fee. I resubmitted a rewrite but the second round of notes was pure crap. By the comments of the reader, it was obvious he or she only read bits and pieces. Blue Cat gave the option of asking for the same reader. I wish I had. Getting notes is no guarantee they will read the whole thing. If the script was so bad that the reader just gave up, I might sympathize. However, it would not have made quarter finalist in the first 2 out of 3 contest entered, if that was the case.

Author: David Barkley Posted: 07/05/10 12:35 AM

I'm resurrecting ''David'' for another post.

So it appears that a reader has suggested that she judges scripts for a contest the same way the industry judges them. Well, uh, good. Do we really enter competitions for the sake of winning a competition, or do we hope to be recognized by the industry? I'm actually kind of glad to see somebody base their contest judging the same way the industry does.

Do you really think that if the title page is unprofessional, and the first couple of pages don't engage, and the first ten pages go nowhere, a reader can't judge based on that? If your first few pages aren't as good as the first few pages of another script, then I'd bet a hundred bucks the rest of that other script is better, too. (I'm not talking about a contest that offers feedback, with or without a fee. If they don't promise feedback, and your script doesn't advance, there's your feedback. If they don't offer feedback, you pay a fee for consideration, for a chance at winning a competition. Period. You don't get to pick the rules by which they judge the scripts.)

I have to say that it sounds like some people are looking for reasons why their scripts don't advance in this contest or any number of others. There seems to be a need to put an ''asterisk'' on Silver Screenwriting, even though there's no evidence that this reader had any effect on the outcome of that competition. Even if she was talking about Silver, and again, I've seen no evidence she was, who's to say that another reader who read the entirety of the same scripts wouldn't have advanced the same ones she did?

I've never been a reader for a competition or for a production company. But I have read a lot of scripts. Anybody who has also read a lot of scripts will tell you that you can tell pretty much from the first few pages if the script is any good. I have never, believe me, never, seen a crummy first few pages, and later, magically, the script is brilliant. Have any of you? Let's face it, most of us start a script at the beginning. By the time the script is done, those first few pages have been worked, and reworked, and re-reworked (or at least they should have been). Those first few pages have been gone over more than just about any part of the script. Those first few pages are as good as it's going to get.

You want to learn something from this? Here it is. Your first few pages had better be absolutely fantastic. Even if you've got a slump in the middle somewhere, if your first few pages made me wonder what's going to happen at the end, I'll hang with you. If not, well, I won't. Even if the script falls down in the third act, the reader is likely to remember that at some point they were excited about that script. And so, it advances.

Furthermore, the number of scripts (or the percentage of scripts) that make it to the quarterfinals varies from competition to competition. Some advance five percent (like Nicholl), some ten percent, some twenty, some twenty-five. Personally I think that some contests advance any script that doesn't have coffee stains on the title page. If for no other reason, this is why advancing to the quarterfinals one competition is no guarantee it will advance in another.

When some people have a script reach the quarterfinals, they think, ''Hey, look at all the scripts my script is better than.'' When I have a script reach the quarterfinals, I think, ''Wow, look at all the scripts that beat mine. I better get back to work on it.'' Then I go back to work on it. If the script makes the quarterfinals in one competition, or two or a hundred, but gets no further, that should tell you the script may be good, but needs work.

There are people who regularly post here that advance in competition after competition. I'll bet their first few pages are pretty darn good.

(For those who haven't heard from ''David'' before, it's a pseudonym, for which I make no apologies. I post here regularly under my own name, and I do enter competitions. I don't want the impression that I'm sucking up to contest administrators, so when I see a thread that seems to be unfairly ragging on a competition, I post under the name ''David.'' Don't like that? Too bad. But if I decide to post something negative about a competition, I'll do it under my own name.)

Author: Mike McGeever Posted: 07/05/10 01:59 AM

What a great thread.! So many great comments, I'll try to be brief:

1) Film Critic Roger Ebert once wrote about a projectionist who always watched the first 15 —20 minutes of a movie to make sure he had cut the reels together correctly. The projectionist came up with a "law": if nothing interesting happens in the first 15 minutes of a movie, nothing interesting is going to happen. I've thought of that law often when I've watched movies over the year, and, sadly, found it to be true. It's entirely subjective of course; a film that doesn't interest me may fascinate you. But you need to hook the audience early in the story or you've lost them.

That being said, two minutes is that rule taken to absurd lengths. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and RAIDERS have 2 minute credit sequences where nothing much happens. I think (particularly if it's a contest) you should give a script at least 10-20 pages, out of respect for the fee.

2) Is the point of a script contest to find great writing, or find the next Hollywood blockbuster? If I enter THE DUKES OF HAZZARD in the Nicholl, should it win? Are you looking for great writers, great scripts, or something that will make money for Hollywood?

3) I entered a contest once where it was crystal clear from the paid feedback that the judge had NOT read the script, and had only read the character descriptions , the scene headers, etc. All of his notes were on format — "I couldn't tell if you had your Act I break in the right spot, since your margins were so off." He clearly had no idea what the script was about, and had only given it the most cursory of scans.

The contest judge had done a great job simulating a harried studio reader with 600 scripts in the slush file and 2 minutes for each one. Given that I was PAYING for feedback, his approach was morally unacceptable, and I complained to the contest sponsor, who didn't bother to respond. Nonetheless I learned my lesson. My script screamed "amateur" and it made it easy for him to wipe his feet on me. The next day I ordered a copy of Final Draft. Sometimes there's something to be learned in even the worst experiences. J

Author: Marjory Kaptanoglu Posted: 07/05/10 11:11 AM

I recently re-watched ''To Kill a Mockingbird.'' To judge from the first 20-30 minutes, it appears to be a story about kids growing up in the south. If, on first viewing, I had given up after the first few minutes, I might never have known it was a powerful drama about racism and prejudice.

In my opinion, contest readers should read the entire script because this is what entrants have paid for. But at the very minimum, they ought to read up to the first thirty pages. Stopping after page two or three is absurd.

When I enter a contest, it is with the expectation that the contest will select the most compelling and well-written story as the winner, not the one most likely to be the next Hollywood blockbuster. Independent films often have slower beginnings than studio films. Does that mean we should not bother entering scripts intended for the independent market?

If the reader covered 75 scripts in 3 hours and selected 20, how many of those 20 could she have read all the way through? One maybe? I've read many a script that had an exciting opening and then died in the 2nd act. There easily could've been one or two from the rejected pile that opened slowly and then soared in the 2nd act.

I think it's pretty clear which contest was involved, and I don't plan to enter it in the future.

Author: L.J. Wright Posted: 07/05/10 11:17 AM

At the end of the day I think the goal should be to entertain people. I would never want to be a well known, successful screenwriter because my margins are always correct, but because of the way I tell my story. When people are watching a movie, can they see the margins of my script?

A contest is suppose to judge a script, and I doubt you can judge a script by only reading the first ten pages. That's like saying you can judge a person in the first ten minutes. They might say something you don't like, but maybe you interrpurted wrong and as you go on you learn that the person really could become a cool friend of yours.

Either way, people are going to do what they do. And in a contest, with numerous judges, there's no way to pin point who only reads a title page and who doesn't. An an inccorectly title page does not = bad writer/bad script. A amture writer doesn't equal = bad script.

If someone puts their hard earned money into entering a contest, with a script they put their heart and soul into and tried their best with, and their dream is being a writer, then it's going to hurt to learn that they didn't get a fair shot.

Yes, it's a business but it's the entertainment business. Hopefully there will be people who start to put the art and the people first, rather than some misplaced comma's.

I don't think people are simply mad because they didn't advance, I mean...what if someone didnt' advance in this Silver competition but did advance in Nicholl?

I just think when it comes to spending your money on something you want to be respected. And if a CONTEST is going to base their judging off of only the first ten pages, or skim over the script, then they should at least make the public aware. They should let people know they will be judging as producers/agents. Then at least that gives a person a chance to decided whether or not they want to spend $50 on an entry fee to be judged like a producer, or spend 47 cents on a stamp and send a query.

I'm not attacking the Silver screenplay contest, I'm just talking about contest in general.

I don't understand how any writer can say, I'm happy that I spent my money on this, even though I wrote ten dazzling first pages, but still didn't get a complete script read.

Everyone can write ten dazzling first pages right now and send them to me, but will I judge each one as dazzling? Even if you percieve it to be.

I really think when it comes to contest, subjectivity plays the biggest role. Maybe no one wants to admit that, but it does. So enter contest where you know your subject matter will be appreciated.

And as for judging the script in the fist ten pages: I started out reading a script that was about something I did not enjoy at all. It was weird to me, but as I went on and read it things did become better to me. I discovered there was great subtext and I fell in love with characters.

Say what you will. But I'm going to be producing and directing one day and I won't be throwing any script away after the first ten pages. Just because something is done a certain way, doesn't mean that's the only way or the best way.

Author: Janet Hogate Posted: 07/05/10 12:52 PM

Yes, and...... we shouldn't judge judges and their contests by stupid little blogs. Again, I really think there was more to this than meets the eye. We need more REAL information before casting stones.

Author: David Barkley Posted: 07/05/10 01:03 PM

Marjory, sorry we seem to again be on opposite sides of a discussion, but the fact that you went back 50 years to "To Kill A Mockingbird" is kind of telling. Not only is it from the sixties, when stories tended to unfold more slowly, it's based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

And the fact that it took an unexpected turn at around thirty minutes in? Well, that's the first act break. It's supposed to take a turn.

Finally, are you saying the first thirty minutes of "To Kill A Mockingbird" are bad? That they're not compelling storytelling? You stuck around until the act break because the first thirty minutes were that good.

Author: Marjory Kaptanoglu Posted: 07/05/10 02:11 PM

I would say the first 10-15 minutes of To Kill a Mockingbird are not terribly compelling, and perhaps I would not have stuck around to watch more if I had not known it was based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. And it would have been my loss; I would have missed out on a great drama. The point is, contest readers are going to assume none of our scripts are based on Pulitzer Prize-winning novels, so what will keep them reading past page two? The fact that we paid $60 or so (typical late entry fee) to have our scripts seriously considered should guarantee readers at least withhold judgment until page 30. Hey, if after 30 pages they still feel the story unfolds much too slowly and will not make a compelling film, I'm fine with that. I just feel the pacing cannot accurately be judged without a reading that includes the first act at a minimum.

I have no problem with contests doing whatever they want to do to judge scripts, as long as it's clear that's the way they operate. If in some cases they will not read past page two, I'd like to know that so I can choose not to enter.

I mentioned To Kill a Mockingbird only because I happened to re-watch it recently. I'm sure many other examples can be found in current movies wherein it is not clear what the genre is or how exciting the plot will become by the end of page two.

Author: Greg Beal Posted: 07/05/10 02:22 PM

If you're going to offer pronouncements about how things work in the real world, you should know how the real world works (in this instance, the rather unreal world of studios and production companies).

Studio readers do not have slush piles of 600 scripts to get through. Readers who actually work at a studio are union members and typically read two scripts or one novel per day. Since they are covering every submission, they need to read the entire script or book. Oh, they may be turned off by a weak opening and they may skim but they don't toss the script aside after two or ten pages.

Agency and production company readers providing coverage operate in a similar manner, though they often read far more than two scripts in a day.

Lower level and/or newer companies with looser submission policies may not cover many scripts. If that's the case, then these readers could toss scripts early on if all that's required is a "no" for the vast majority of submissions.

Of course, executives, producers, agents, managers can do whatever they want with many submissions, and they could well toss scripts early on. As long as they have coverage from previous readers, they can respond about a submission as necessary even when they haven't read the script.

None of this is to undercut the notion that your opening pages need to be strong. They do. If a reader at any level isn't compelled to keep turning the pages, that's not a good thing.





Author: Marjory Kaptanoglu Posted: 07/05/10 02:36 PM

Agreed that the opening pages (in fact, every page of the script) need to be as strong and compelling as possible. But when someone quits after only 2 pages, it may be because the reader is making some incorrect assumptions about the upcoming story.

Greg, since you have kindly joined in, can you clarify the Nicholl's policy? Are your readers expected to read all scripts in their entirety, or do you have a minimum page number you expect them to reach, or do you leave it up to the reader?

Author: L.J. Wright Posted: 07/05/10 04:10 PM

I'm not sure a reader at any level will love the first ten pages of a drama script if they just don't like drama. If a slapstick comedy opens with an awesome first ten pages, and the reader is completely offended and grossed out, doesn't mean the script isn't any good.

I would not spend my money on a contest if knew that my script wasn't going to be read as a whole. Just read it! If you hate it, at least I have the satisfaction of knowning you hate it as a whole. And my entry fee got me a complete read.

I know the goal of a contest is to pick the best script. But if they don't practice reading the whole script, just let people know. Then maybe so many novice writers won't waste their entry fee until they take a little more time to learn how to write a great first act.

Just tell people.

Author: Janet Hogate Posted: 07/05/10 04:15 PM

Oh I don't know, I thought the first 15 minutes of "Taken" was pretty boring and uninteresting but boy did it take off after that. And thats a fairly new film.

But I dont think we are talking about plot here because it really is impossible to know from the first page or two wether or the not the plot will soar. I would say 15 at least.

IF judges really are pitching scripts after the first 2 pages , which I personally dont think they are, then what in the world are they judging these scripts on? Is it simply wether or not we know how to format properly and who ever does it the very best wins? Thats ridiculous.

Although, sometimes I am suspicious of that when I hear some of the winners and read their scripts. You have to admit, some winning scripts of some of these contests are pretty unoriginal and lame. But hey, they sure can format well which means they definitely past the 2 page test.

I think the theory is you MUST have good writing and formatting skills first, to even be considered in the running. Then.... if you have a really good story too... you will win. Of course if you have a really good story but no writing skills then yours will get pitched. Fair or not.

Personally, at this point, I would be angry if they didnt insist on good writing skills first because I have put a lot of time, money and work into developing my skills so I could compete on THAT level.

So basically what Im saying is it doesn't bother me if they pitch all of the bad writing , formatting problem scripts in the first two pages . Which IS easy to spot in the first two.

I think maybe the problem here is a lot of us think there cannot possibly be that many people, who don't have basic screenwriting skills, entering these contests. Well, from what Ive seen of reading other new writers scripts, on other sites of course, there are.

I too assumed all of them had basic skills but please believe me many, many, many of them don't. So I say, pitch'em!

Author: L.J. Wright Posted: 07/05/10 04:40 PM

I'm going to get back to my script, that I believe is amazing and follows all the "rules."

And I might enter it in some contest. I might send out some query letters.

And I hope and pray that somebody reads it all and LOVES it just as much as I do.

And for anyone who might be upset that your script isn't getting read, or noticed...just keep working, and just because you didn't make it doesn't mean your ideas or your script was bad. I have to believe that if you really enjoy the art of writing, that if it's your true passion, you'll make it happen for yourself.

Author: James F. Hollmer Posted: 07/05/10 04:55 PM

LJ, you are right on. There are contests out there that do not like certain topics. When their readers have to read them they have bad ideas before starting.

When there are mega contests, ones with thousands of entry's, a lot of scripts will never get a fair chance. With studio's a lot of scripts get trashed before they are ever opened.

To reach the top level at studio's a lot of scripts have gone thru several lower level reads, and if you are a well known writer you have better odds even though it may not be the best story. Thats the trick, get something done and hope for the best.

Author: David Barkley Posted: 07/05/10 08:27 PM

Janet, exactly. Most scripts are bad. And while you may not be able to tell how a good script is after a couple of pages, you can get a pretty good indication if it's bad.

I just went to see Cyrus. Hardly a typical Hollywood blockbuster. And within a minute, something pretty distinctive happens, that sets up the tone and main character in an interesting way. In brought me into that world immediately. Is it really my kind of movie? Not entirely. But I got hooked at the beginning, and I wanted to know how it was going to play out. That's what those opening moments need to do.

Author: Paula Smith Posted: 07/05/10 08:45 PM

Did anyone see "Inglorious Basterds" Quentin Tarentino's film? The first maybe 10 minutes was incredibly boring. He can get away with it but the rest of us can't.

Author: Marjory Kaptanoglu Posted: 07/05/10 10:16 PM

At the risk of appearing to switch sides, I'd have to disagree with you, Paula. That first scene in Inglorious Basterds is masterful (and I'm not generally a Tarantino fan). I believe we get a glimpse very quickly of the family under the floor, so we know the stakes right off the bat. The German commander could talk for hours about laundry soap and we are on the edge of our seats because we are afraid they'll be discovered. At least, it seemed that way to me.

Author: Irin Evers Posted: 07/05/10 10:27 PM

This is one of the most interesting threads on here in a long time. To be honest, I keep going back and forth on whether a reader of a contest needs to read the full script, 30 pages, or even 10 pages. I understand the arguments for both sides. It's tough.

When I was a reader (for a few companies in NY, my longest stint was at Andrew Lauren Productions), we always had to not only read the whole script, but provide a one page synopsis. And there we actually had weekly meetings to chat about the script (that's why I stayed so long - it was great to meet with the other readers and an exec and discuss (even disagree) about the scripts). ALP sponsored Slamdance's Skyline Awards and we had to read the Finalists to judge them. Again, we had to read full scripts. I'm not sure how other companies do it, but this was my experience.

However, you could tell within a few pages (99% of the time by page 10) if this was going to be a "consider" or a "pass" - and I'm talking about scripts from the top agencies and managers, other producers, even directors. Most of you have read on Triggerstreet or Zoetrope or something similar and you know what I mean. So that beginning has to be great. I finally just read the much hyped Killing on Carnival Row and I really liked it. You can tell from the first few pages why people were talking about it.

Author: Paula Smith Posted: 07/05/10 10:43 PM

Marjory - I wasn't on the edge of my seat after the first 2 minutes. I just wanted him to get on with it, but maybe I have a shorter attention span than you do.

Irin - I'm with you, going back and forth. I remember that first painful season of Greenlight. I had one "script" that was literally a novel. I explained the difference and the writer wrote back, thanking me. They had no idea how to write a script.

Then, on the other hand, I don't like dramas. I want action, thrills, humor or gore. But, not drama. So, ten pages of drama bores the hell out of me. If someone gets a reader who doesn't handle drama they are at a disadvantage. The same with a writer of horror who gets a writer who doesn't like gore.

So, it's a tightrope. On the one hand is fairness to the writer. On the other hand is fairness to the reader and reality.

Author: Max Adams Posted: 07/06/10 01:30 AM

It might be helpful to actually read the post everyone is discussing here. It is google cached at http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:ElCk-69hNMoJ:thisisyourpilotspeaking.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/first-10/+%22I+had+a+few+things+pop+up+last+night+%22&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

Author: Julia Kubik Posted: 07/06/10 02:02 AM

The Max Adams? Okay - I know this is off topic, but OMG -- I bought your book and remember you from the Compuserve days. Thanks for checking in and adding to the discussion. Would love to know your POV on the subject. Will see if I can dig up the cache.

Greg Beal has also commented and I thank him for that.

Author: L.J. Wright Posted: 07/06/10 02:18 AM

So is it better to say "she jumps out of the bed" or am I using too many words and should I just say that "she jumps outta bed" or is it wrong to use slang in action lines?

Which one is not going to get my script thrown out by the second sentence? Haha, I'm joking.

But seriously, I'm posting here because everyone is reading this. "she jumps outta bed" "she jumps out of the bed" Will it sound too lighthearted if I use outta?

Author: James Pickering Posted: 07/06/10 02:29 AM

I thought the opening ten minutes of Inglourious Basterds were brilliant! I guess this shows how subjective it is - It reads as well for me on the page as it does watching the film.

Author: Greg Beal Posted: 07/06/10 09:45 AM

Instructions to Nicholl readers:

Read the scripts.

No one is told to read only 10 or 30 or 60 pages of the script entries.

Since many of the Nicholl readers are also writers or involved in development, I also suggest that they should treat each script as they would want their own scripts treated.

Author: James Schannep Posted: 07/06/10 11:18 AM

First, I think we can all agree that tossing a script because the address on the cover doesn't say "LA" is deplorable.

As for reading only the first 2 or 10 pages of a script--I wish it weren't done. And I want to state that I won a contest that reads ONLY the first 10 pages, so I don't think I'm being naive. Here is my argument for why I don't like it:

I call it the "two weeks earlier" syndrome. I came up with it after watching the remake of "The Crazies" where right away we see a landscape littered with chaos and destruction in order to 'catch our attention' and then cut to "two weeks earlier" where we see the actual opening of the film. This 'real' opening is slow, brooding, and filled with tension--but on the page it risks being boring. This 'real' opening stood on its own in theaters, but on the page the screenwriter had to hook the audience within the first 10 (or 2) pages.

Working writers know this and writing has changed over the years to accommodate. But because of the "two weeks earlier" syndrome, almost every movie in theaters these days starts with some kind of chase sequence, gun fight, or maybe a guy jerking off before we can get into the 'real' story.

Personally, I'm tired of needing to be "shocked" into a movie and wish it would stop. There's something to be said about building tension and letting it pay off.

Author: Stephen Hoover Posted: 07/06/10 11:27 AM

I finished 2nd last year in SilverScreenwriting. I don't live in NY/LA.

The winner was from England. The win included ticket price within the continental U.S. He flew over. Picked out a brand new MacBook, took meetings, and had a great time (pictures on the website).

I took Margaux's post to be hyperbole. She listed small things that add up and toll on a reader. Many contests (Nicholl being the exception, as Greg has noted) screen out scripts from the first 10, 20, 30 pages. Same with film festivals screening movies or music festivals screening songs.

EVERY screenwriting book I've read tells you the importance of the first ten pages of your script. This should be common knowledge to any screenwriter -- you have to nail the first ten. Is this new information?

Not sure what contest Margaux was grading (she indicated later on the blog it was not Silver) but if the contest did not include coverage (like you get from, say, BlueCat) there was no stated guarantee the full script would be read.

The active members of this board have been at this from some time. We read scripts from within our circle of writer friends or pro scripts from sites like ScriptShadow.

Instead of putting the time and effort into writing a solid script and then verifying the quality of that script through a consultant (like Max) many new writers do a first draft and then enter it into a dozen contests. Then they complain the system isn't "fair."

Would these writers be better served paying for coverage? Getting coverage from 'advanced amateurs' from peer review sites like Zoetrope or TriggerStreet? Would they be better served hiring an editor? Yes, yes, and yes. Instead they blow money on entering contests and go out shopping the script to agents, managers, and production companies.

Follow the advice of the hundreds of screenwriting books and work on your first ten pages. Read books and blogs written by contest judges that tell you what they want in a script to advance it to the next level. Sign up for a class at your local university or online writing school. Form a peer group to share reads. Don't expect your first screenplay to go very far. Start the next one. Then the next.

Good luck this contest season!









Author: Marjory Kaptanoglu Posted: 07/06/10 12:17 PM

Greg, thank you for answering the question and for the respect given screenwriters by you and the contest you represent.

James, I completely agree with your assessment of the ''two weeks earlier'' syndrome. Unfortunately, we all do it because we feel like we have to, particularly after finding out that some readers dismiss scripts after two pages. I too wish it would stop.

Stephen, I think what was so upsetting about Margaux's post is that I, and I think, many of the people here on Moviebytes, are not submitting our first scripts and have indeed done much if not all of what you suggest to improve our screenplays. Many of us have placed highly in other contests, have optioned scripts, etc., so I don't think we're simply delusional. Therefore when a contest reader like Margaux says she is flying through her judging, dismissing scripts right and left as if the writer has no idea how to put together a sentence, let alone an entire screenplay, it hurts. And when a contest organizer like Julie states that all the scripts that didn't make the cut (top 50, or 5%) are much worse than last year's, it hurts. It's a big slap in the face to all of us who have worked very hard over the past year to improve our craft.

And yes, I will suck it up and persevere, because I'm determined to the brink of insanity, but I thought now would be a good time to pause and point out that if you don't demand respect, oftentimes you don't get it. Greg and the Nicholl's manage to show respect for the writer; so do quite a few other contests. How about the rest?

Author: Irin Evers Posted: 07/06/10 12:59 PM

Thanks for posting that Greg.

Author: Stephen Hoover Posted: 07/06/10 01:23 PM

Right. I'm saying that Silver does NOT do what Margaux suggested. The top two from last year were not LA/NY addresses. She was writing to be provocative and didn't realize it came across as insulting.

She should have written it as a "things that annoy a reader" (and there are dozens of similar posts on the net from other readers) but she didn't. She apologized and said it was not Silver she was reading for.

Crunch some numbers. Greg said a pro reader does 2 scripts per day. 1,000 scripts = 500 days work. What does a pro make? How do you have a contest funded through entry fees (Nicholl is different, of course, as it is not funded solely through entry fees) and have it be sustainable?

I've spoken to judges from other contests (I won't mention names) but first ten, twenty, thirty reads are common.

Nail your opening. Every screenwriting book says to do this. Why is this even a controversy?

Spend money on a class or consultant or participate in a peer review site. Make sure your script is ready to be judged before spending entry fees.

One manager explained it to me this way, "You don't start at zero on the ten point scale. You start at -10. I assume your script is going to suck. Prove to me that it doesn't." That's it in a nutshell.

Author: Marjory Kaptanoglu Posted: 07/06/10 01:34 PM

Stephen, can you point us to where she says it was not Silver she was reading for? I don't see that in her retraction.

Thanks

Author: James Schannep Posted: 07/06/10 01:54 PM

Yes, we should write great openings. We should also write great middles and ends.

Seems to me the controversy stems from 1) the attitude 2) people feel that if they pay $50, they should at least get read.

Author: Irin Evers Posted: 07/06/10 02:20 PM

I can help with this (Stephen, Marjory) - after I heard about the original post, I went to the website, but was too late. A retraction was posted. That retraction was removed quickly as well and replaced with the one you have above (saying it doesn't reflect upon Silver, Julie Gray, etc.) I'm not sure why the first one was pulled, but I happened to cut and paste it to show it to someone at the time and here it is:

Congratulations!

I've taken down the controversial post about contest judging.

The haterade is not worth it.

Sad for the people who learned something about what contest judges look for and those who actually want to LEARN about the business of screenwriting.

And some of the posts are saying I judged The Silver Screenwriting Contest. That's not correct.

While I have in the past and think that this is a fantastic contest, that is not the contest I judged this year. Please re-direct that hatred elsewhere. There seems to be plenty of venom to go around.

------

Why was this this same blunt remark about her not reading for Silver this year not repeated in the retraction that replaced this? I don't know. Did she really read for Silver? I don't know. But that's where Stephen was coming from. This post was only up there for a short time.

Author: Marjory Kaptanoglu Posted: 07/06/10 04:30 PM

Thanks, Irin.

Author: Susan Russell Posted: 07/06/10 05:33 PM

I really appreciate the big-time pro's (Max Adams, James Lowell, Greg Beal, and a number of others over on DDP) looking out for us newbies! It would be very easy for all of them to just stay out of it and not worry about those who are struggling. Thank you!

I have yet to see a defense of Margaux that I buy. She wrote an apology and only apologized for her tone, not her actions. If she said she threw out screenplays that were terribly written after two pages, I'd have more sympathy. Even if we assume that advice such as "don't write a movie set outside LA or NY" was hyperbole, she never admits it's unfair to judge 75 scripts in 3 hours.

While I wish the best of luck to everyone who made QF's in Silver Screenwriting, I will be crossing it off my list. Margaux erased the post in which she claimed this was not about Silver, and Julie has said nothing. Contest entries are pretty much a lottery anyway and I don't like the odds on this one right now.

Do any of the people defending Marguax think 75 scripts in 3 hours is reasonable? I still think that contests should state up front if they don't read the whole script. But I don't have a big issue with throwing a script out after 20 or 25 pages if it's really awful. I think reading less than 10 pages is just inexcusable (and I'm talking here about contest judges reading the scripts of contestants who paid a fee).

As for the money, quick and dirty calculations show that this contest brought in about $55,000. Cash prizes total $2000. I can't believe the total prize packages are worth more than $10,000, so that leaves $43,000. Cut off another $3000 for, I dunno, judge's dinner? Now, let's say those top 50 scripts are treated with some nice coverage in the next round at $120 a pop (total of $6000). That leaves $37,000 to pay the initial round judges. So if Margaux got paid $37/script for her judging, she just made off with a nice hourly rate of $925. Yeah, okay, I guess that sounds pretty fair after all.

Author: Nick Stoli Posted: 07/06/10 05:44 PM

*She should have written it as a "things that annoy a reader" (and there are dozens of similar posts on the net from other readers) but she didn't.*

I agree completely. A lot of what she said had merit. Let's face it, while I don't agree that 10 pages is enough to gauge the quality of a screenplay (maybe the writer started too early and the script really begins on page 11), sloppy writing and bad formatting in the beginning are alarming signs that the script probably sucks.

Author: David Barkley Posted: 07/06/10 08:07 PM

Susan, since you believe in full disclosure, do you mind telling us if you entered Silver, but didn't advance? I'm curious, because you seem intent on blacklisting this competition, even though the writer of the blog post you take issue with has stated that Silver wasn't the competition she was reading for.

Author: Paula Smith Posted: 07/06/10 08:46 PM

I didn't enter the Silver contest but this thread is still very interesting. I believe this probably happens a lot (I've heard readers from another well-known contest who said they threw the scripts in the trash pile after only a few pages - they said were only reading to get the free passes to promote their own scripts, anyway)

The below is a quote from the link posted originally. The writer specifically mentions Silver. So, this is probably why those who read it assumed it applied to Silver. "I would also like to point out that my post in no way reflects the attitude and business philosophy of my colleague Julie Gray or the Silver Screenwriting contest or The Script Department."

Author: Susan Russell Posted: 07/06/10 10:22 PM

Blacklisting, seriously? Is there a Godwin's Law of Blacklisting Analogies(*) that applies to screenwriting forums? But I do appreciate the respect you show for the great power I wield here at Moviebytes!

I did enter Silver Screenwriting and have talked about it on MB (I complimented them for getting back to me quickly after I had some technical problems uploading my screenplay).

I also failed to advance in BlueCat and Champion. In my ''blacklisting'' of BlueCat I said that I would not enter another horror/thriller in this contest, as there aren't any BlueCat winners in that genre. I also said their notes were pretty good and that they'd given my script a fair read. I guess I haven't yet blacklisted Champion as I don't know if I will re-enter. I said Champion's first set of notes were awful, but still indicated the reader had read the script. I said that Champion's second set of notes were the best contest feedback I received and incredibly insightful. Because I just say hateful things like that when I don't advance to QF.

So, ''David Barkley,'' can you tell me which part of ''I will be crossing Silver Screenwriting off my list'' constitutes blacklisting? Would you like a complete list of all contests I'm not entering so that you can detail them on the ''Moviebytes Un-American Activities Committee'' entry you are preparing for me at Wikipedia?

It's interesting that Stephen Hoover had no problem posting his (pro-Silver) opinion under his real name. I respect the fact that he isn't afraid of ''making the impression that he's sucking up.'' His opinion is perfectly reasonable, I just don't happen to agree with it.

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law

Author: David Barkley Posted: 07/06/10 10:23 PM

"Contest entries are pretty much a lottery anyway and I don't like the odds on this one right now."

I knew it! See that, Stephen? You're not better than us, you're just lucky.

Author: Stephen Hoover Posted: 07/07/10 12:10 AM

RE: Silver. I have no problem posting my actual experiences as a contestant from last year who finished 2nd and from this year. From last year -- the winner and second place finisher were not from LA/NY. It's an international competition.

I gave notes to two scripts tonight as I'm active on peer review sites. First ten pages are enough to decide the quality of many scripts. Just because everyone has a word processor doesn't mean everyone can write.

Here's what you'll find from new writers struggling to learn the craft: Incorrect format; opening with backstory scenes before getting into the actual story; awkwardly conveying exposition through stilted dialogue; misspelled words; grammatical errors; lack of visual storytelling; and poorly constructed scenes.

If you read all that for ten pages, you know it's a 'no' already. So how many pages do you read before you give up? What is that writer telling you about their concern for the craft?

A large percentage of scripts in contests are first or second drafts. The writers think they are good to go and ship them off into contests. This isn't little league where you get a trophy for showing up.

99.9% of people that take up screenwriting will never make a dime from it. Most are wasting time, effort, and money. Same with most artistic pursuits (singing, dance, acting).

Even winning a contest means only that a writer was selected from a crop of unproduced amateur writers -- the cream of the crap. That doesn't mean that writer can cut it against top professional writers and there are no minor leagues for this gig.

Join a peer review site such as Zoetrope or TriggerStreet. Read professional scripts available on sites such as ScriptShadow. Sign up for courses such as those Max offers. Learn the craft. Pay your dues. Keep at it.

The average writer writes 2-3 scripts and lasts 2-3 years. The average pro breaks in after 10 scripts and 10 years.

Give yourself 10 years to get good -- or go enjoy life. Spend time with friends and family or exercising. If you can quit, quit. If you can't, I'll see you around one day because I'm in it for the marathon.







Author: James Pickering Posted: 07/07/10 04:04 AM

So many valid points on this topic.

What Stephen has said is particularly key. Read other people's scripts. I try to read the first ten pages of two or three scripts every morning (A produced one off IMSDB, and another from an 'amateur' from such sites as Circalit). You'll soon learn what works and what doesn't and get a pretty good idea of where the script is going.

I look back at the openings of early drafts I wrote when I started out a year ago and shudder. I'm not saying my writing is particularly great now, it's just better than it was a year ago. In a years time I'll probably shudder at yesterday's draft... I may even shudder at yesterday's today.

One of the things they always drilled into our heads at Uni was the importantance of the first ten pages; in reality what we're reading about shouldn't alter us in anyway. We've still gotta write incredible openings. See it as a challenge. Don't give them a reason to put your script down; give them a reason to keep on reading - Hell we gotta make it impossible for them to put that script down.

Down let what's been said demoralize you. What Stephen wrote is true: 99% of screenwriters won't make it, but I truely believe a large proportion of them have the wrong mindset. They don't study the craft. They don't read the books, the scripts, watch the movies, listen to people speak (people moan they struggle with dialogue and don't actually listen to people around them every day), use coverage and consultants (your best mate isn't a consultant - of course he finds your script funny - you're best mates for a reason) and most importantly, like Michael always says on here, keep writing - every day, either at the computer, in your head, on post it notes, etc.

I'm not saying any of this because I think my writing is wonderful or because I think my advice is worth anything. Hell I've made so many mistakes this last year (and I'd have made even more had it not been for some of the incredibly helpful people on here) - I'm still learning (and will be till the day I die cause I don't believe in perfection - Angelina in Tomb Raider aside), but I won't fail in getting where I want to. I'll either get there or die trying; I erased the word fail out my mindset ages ago.

That's just my input, for what it's worth. Oh and Stephen you'll probably beat the majority of us there so can you get the drinks in at the finish line...

Author: Marjory Kaptanoglu Posted: 07/07/10 09:53 AM

This is all very good advice, but it's off-topic. The question was, ''Should contest judges decide after 2 pages?'' I believe the answer is no. An exciting beginning does not guarantee an engrossing read. Moreover, since two pages are too little to give a real sense of the story, the reader is likely to form opinions based on prejudices. For example, let's say the protagonist is mentally challenged, and the reader doesn't believe a mentally challenged protagonist can carry a story for 120 pages (or that such a story will be commercial). Or maybe the script is set in Appalachia and the reader doesn't like ''hillbilly'' stories. Given the tone of Margaux's blog, it doesn't seem at all unlikely that such snap judgments were made.

Some of you seem to be assuming that scripts passed over by a two-page scan must be poorly written. I don't think that's a valid assumption. Yes, it's easy to tell in two pages when the author really can't write, or has not bothered to master formatting rules. But I don't believe 95% of contest entrants are like that, as Margaux implies. My guess is that at least half of the entrants can produce an exciting first two pages, but they may not be followed up by anything great after that. Which is why one needs to read more&

I have, by the way, been a contest judge, have belonged to five different writers' groups at various times and have received professional feedback on many occasions, so I know what other people's scripts look like and have heard the worst about my own.

Author: James Schannep Posted: 07/07/10 10:37 AM

''David'', I thought your pseudonym was only for speaking for or against competitions? So why use it to ask such an innocent question to Susan? Could it be because you know that what you're implying (that if you speak out against a competition after being rejected you're somehow 'jaded') is rude? You clearly, and understandably, have offended her with the remark. I didn't advance in Silver, so am I not allowed to think they handled this ''scandal'' poorly? I think fadeinonline is doing a terrible job right now--but I did advance there--so what?

Oh, and you could have found out for yourself if Susan (Or I, for that matter) advanced because we use our real names, and all you have to do is check the published list. We don't know if you advanced, but I don't personally care, because I think you're entitled to an opinion either way.

Author: Stephen Hoover Posted: 07/07/10 10:59 AM

Julie's response to all this was posted today on DDP:

Words Matter. And So Do Rules. Imagine my dismay over the 4th of July holiday spent with my family to be notified of the recent SSC thread on Done Deal. I replied to a couple of emails but didn't have time to really address this.

But that's what I'm doing now.

The SSC has grown very quickly, and after the first year, these are the rules that we have refined and use to ensure consistency and fairness:

Quote: 1st Cut As with most screenwriting competitions, such as Austin, Silver Screenwriting readers are required to read to a minimum of at least page 30.

Readers then fill out a brief score card for each script. Score cards include 5 categories:

PREMISE NARRATIVE CHARACTER/DIALOGUE STRUCTURE EXECUTION (format, language usage, spelling).

Scores range from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) in each category.

A minimum score of 19 is required to make it past the first cut. Scores of 18 or below are eliminated from the competition.

This year we had roughly 200 scripts that made the 1st cut with scores of 19 or more.

Quarterfinal Round The scripts that have progressed past the 1st round are then randomized and redistributed among the readers and they're given a second score card with the same 5 categories.

The totals from the two score cards are added together, giving us a total score out of 50. Any score with 41 points or better is published on the SSC website as a quarterfinalist, any with 40 points or less are eliminated from the competition.

This year we had 46 quarterfinalists with 4 that were moved into this round after a debate among the judges.

2nd Round Judging (semi-finals) Scores are reset and scripts are randomized and distributed to new readers.

Score cards include 6 categories:

ORIGINALITY OF PREMISE GENRE EXECUTION CHARACTER/DIALOGUE THEME/SUBTEXT VOICE

Score cards also include a brief summary of the strengths or weakness of the script.

The top scoring 20 scripts (any ties are automatically added to the list) qualify for the next level of judging.

All top 20 scripts and writers are cross checked to ensure eligibility per the Silver Screenwriting rules regarding ownership, earnings, options, etc.

Third Round Judging (finalists) The top 20 are now printed out in hard copy. Notes, comments and questions are made on the pages. Premise and summary notes are written on the title page or back cover.

Judges include Julie Gray and two top industry readers.

This qualifies the top 10 scripts for grand prize judging.

Grand prize winner, 2nd, 3rd place The top 10 scripts are each read by a panel of judges including Julie Gray and two guest judges.

(For the 2010 competition, two executives [one from Fuse Entertainment and one from The Bedford Falls Company] will guest judge.)

The grand prize winner, 2nd and 3rd place winners are chosen. So them's the rules.

Margaux Froley is indeed a friend and a colleague. However, I am speechless at the tone, tenor and content of her blog post. Margaux did not read for the Silver Screenwriting Competition this year, nor is she involved with the judging.

Rather, Margaux read the 75 scripts that received 10 points or less in the 1st Cut round as a favor to me, to make sure the particularly low scores had been fairly judged.

While these scripts were clearly troubled, they did not deserve to be belittled in any way. At the SSC we recognize that each writer tried his or her level best and that everybody is at a different point in the continuum.

The scripts that are advancing this year are fantastic and good luck to everybody who moved up to the QF round. __________________

Author: David Barkley Posted: 07/07/10 12:31 PM

Thanks for posting that, Stephen.

So, to my eye, it appears that in this case Silver advanced the highest scores, after having read at least 30 pages, which many in this thread have said is enough to form an opinion as to which scripts shouldn't move on. Then they took the additional step of giving the lowest scorers a second chance, and of the 75 lowest scorers, 20 were actually considered at least possibilities to move up to the "maybe" category. Whether you agree with the reader's criteria or not, it seems like the competition attempted to bend over backward to make sure they didn't miss something.

Unfortunately, I think this reader used her experience with these 75 scripts as a jumping-off point for a discussion of her rules for considering scripts. 75 scripts that were already considered by somebody else to be not very good. Rather than "the cream of the crap," as Stephen puts it, she was looking at 75 that were considered the "crap of the crap." That probably would have put me in a bad mood, too. Luckily, I tend to think a bit before posting, and this reader didn't take that time.

Author: Marjory Kaptanoglu Posted: 07/07/10 12:43 PM

Here are some responses from the Done Deal Pro board that say it better than I could've:

From mariot: ''According to your post, scores of 11 to 18 don't get a second look but scores of 0-10 do get a second look (albeit a lightning fast one).

Which scripts would really have a chance of getting the 19 points needed to advance?

The ones that scored 17-18 or the ones that scored 0-10?

How could anyone expect to "make sure the particularly low scores had been fairly judged" by reading only the first few pages?

Makes no sense.''

Also from mariot: ''And of those 75 scripts Margaux posted about reading, she stated she advanced 20 to the next round.

So 20 scripts that had a score of 0-10 deserved to go through while all of the scripts originally scoring 11-18 were eliminated without a second look.''

From lordmanji: ''wait so 20 out of the 75 0-10 low scoring scripts advanced to the next round while 30 out of 925 scripts were advanced by the other first round readers. that is a tale of epic disproportion. no wonder margaux acts like she's god with that much influence for doing so little.''

Decide for yourself whether you would like to enter this contest in future.

Author: David Barkley Posted: 07/07/10 01:14 PM

I don't have done deal pro. You've posted comments from two people who agree with what is apparently your point of view. Were there any posters who actually considered this a fair explanation? None? Not even one?

Also, these posters are taking parts of what Julie said, mixing them with parts of what Margeaux said, and drawing conclusions from that. For instance, they're suggesting that 20 of the quarter-finalists came from the bottom group, while only 30 came from the top. That's absolutely not what was said. Margeaux said she advanced 20 scripts, but she doesn't say at what point in the process that was. She could have meant that a script that was originally judged to be a 9, should have gotten a 11, which would have no effect on the judging whatsoever. It certainly doesn't mean that 20 of the worst scripts are in the quarter-finals, as is suggested here. Julie said the 46 scripts with the highest scores moved up, and 4 were advanced after discussions of the judges.

Julie should have just left it at "Margeaux looked at the scripts that were considered the worst to make sure we didn't miss something."

Author: James Schannep Posted: 07/07/10 01:41 PM

You don't have to be a member to read, only to post. Here are the threads:

http://messageboard.donedealpro.com/boards/showthread.php?t=56014

http://messageboard.donedealpro.com/boards/showthread.php?t=56097

There's a lot of good points on both sides, but most of it is too venomous for my taste. I'm glad we keep it somewhat civil here.

Author: David Barkley Posted: 07/07/10 01:42 PM

Sorry, just realized I don't need to buy anything from done deal pro to read the discussion threads. While there are a lot of negative comments, there are also a couple thanking Julie for clearing it up, and saying they deserve the benefit the doubt. For what it's worth, I'm in that camp.

It looks to me like this contest demands killer opening pages. Which we all should have anyway. So yes, decide for yourself. If your opening isn't that good, this apparently isn't the contest for you.

Barkley, OUT!

Author: Marjory Kaptanoglu Posted: 07/07/10 01:48 PM

Interpret it however you like, ''David.'' I personally detect signs that truth is being twisted. Julie says: ''Margaux did not read for the Silver Screenwriting Competition this year, nor is she involved with the judging.'' She goes on to say: ''Rather, Margaux read the 75 scripts that received 10 points or less in the 1st Cut round as a favor to me, to make sure the particularly low scores had been fairly judged.''

How is reading 75 scripts and possibly deciding their fates (to advance or not) not ''judging''? Moreover, at Julie's own website it states that Margaux is a finalist judge in the contest. So how can Julie say she's ''not involved with the judging''?

If Julie had simply said, Margaux was an early round judge, I'm sorry, I didn't know she'd be reading like that, I'd be much more inclined to forgive and forget. But the continued prevarication is troubling.

And by the way, Margaux's post said: ''I advanced 20 to the next round.''

Author: Walter Winton Posted: 07/07/10 03:31 PM

I really take issue to the argument, "Well, that's how producers do it."

Producers/agents/managers (and all their assistants) don't blast through 75 scripts in 3 hours. First, they blast through the loglines. That's fair, they're looking for ideas they want to work with.

They request the loglines that intrigue them (1 out of 100 is probably generous). If a script goes to a reader, then EVERY page is read. If it goes to an assistant or the producer/agent/manager themselves, then they go into the read armed with a logline. They'll still toss it after 10 pages if it's incomprehensible, but they're not going to blow through 75 in 3 hours. Their job is to find promising material. It's impossible at the rate that blogger was describing.

And that's what bugs me about this story. If this woman's handed 75 scripts, then she's bouncing from drama to romcom to horror, with no logline, no preconceptions about the plot. Therefore, she's going into each script blind and not even giving herself the chance to get acclimated. Think of the mentality of doing that. Every script looks like crap if you bounce around for a few pages, your eye always on the clock, and not having any real incentive to find a good script.

And maybe there are prodcos that operate like this (haven't seen one). But writers shouldn't be paying for the privilege.

So no, this is NOT how the industry runs because, believe it or not, the industry has incentive to find good scripts. Competitions have incentive to process as many entries as possible, as cheaply as possible.

There are two take-away points from this:

1. Make your first 10 pages TOP NOTCH... as well as the rest of your script. 2. For these reasons and many more, competitions do not reflect the industry.

By the way, I've never dealt with Silver Screenwriting, so this post isn't directed at them.

Also, since everyone's piling on Mr. Barkley for his secret identity, I should also note that I too use a pseudonym.

Author: Nick Stoli Posted: 07/07/10 03:44 PM

Well said, "Walter." The argument that "this is how producers and studios do it" is completely specious. Last time I checked, producers and studios don't charge to read scripts. At least reputable ones don't.

The blogger made some good points and if contests made it clear that "unless your first 10 knocks our socks off, we're not reading on," then fine, there would be no hullabaloo at all.

"Nick"

Author: David Barkley Posted: 07/07/10 04:16 PM

Pseudonyms rule! Yeah!

Author: Stephen Hoover Posted: 07/07/10 05:20 PM

Enter the contests you want to enter. Nobody is promising you anything.

It's standard practice for a reader going through the reject pile to read only the first few pages if a script is hopeless. This is the SECOND reader. This means a script has more than one shot to advance and is a practice not done by every contest.

Quit. Stop wasting time and money on contests. If you've been at this year and you're going nowhere, chances are you suck and need to find a better way to kill time. Save some trees and stop writing.

Or suck it up. Shut up. And go back to work.

Author: David Barkley Posted: 07/07/10 06:08 PM

I agree with you completely, Stephen.

In the interest of full disclosure, I only read the first few words of your post, but based on those few words, I have decided that the entire post belongs in my "Agree" pile. Congratulations!

Author: Janet Hogate Posted: 07/07/10 06:28 PM

Through this whole thread I still do not see any reason to trash this contest. It was a stupid blog for good ness sakes. And obviously their proceedure, which Stephen posted from Done Deal is standard if not above average.

I do however agree with James S. that its uncalled for to insult someone just because they are complaining about a contest. I mean Susan was just trying to inform the rest of us.

However, I do think her timing was extremely ill.

I mean, the quarter finalist were just announced, which several of our own movie byters made. Then suddenly this neverending thread bashing the judging of it appears? How rude is that?

I mean, I can assure you if I had entered this one and made the cut I would be feeling pretty low and upset by this by now. We have to be a little considerate of EVERYONES feelings. And yes, I have learned a lot watching this.

Oh. OH. Michael S and James H. Im pretty sure I know who Mr. psuedo man is now. Just think about it. What regular movie byter hasn't posted on this thread yet? And yeah he is probably a QF in this contest.

Just kidding Mr Barkley. The 3 of us adore you no matter what.

Author: Janet Hogate Posted: 07/07/10 06:53 PM

Walter Winton! What do you mean that's not your real name?

Author: Robert Watson Posted: 07/07/10 07:19 PM

Don't look at me, Janet. I don't mind saying I'm happy to be in the quarterfinals of this one. 3 Grand? Free computer or cash equivalent? Lunch with Shane Black? Skype with the writer of Buried? I want that stuff. I've been following all of this but trying to keep my head down. Do I need to tell you who's side I'm on in this one?

And between you and me, I think Walter's real name is David Barkley.

Author: Janet Hogate Posted: 07/07/10 07:29 PM

HAH! good one, Robert!

Author: Robert Watson Posted: 07/08/10 04:22 PM

I've had time to think about this (which was probably a mistake). And Janet, rather than feeling ''low'' or ''upset,'' I'm actually kind of pissed. I've been supportive of the people on this board. Then after advancing in a competition, I have to read a post here suggesting that there's a pretty good chance (forty percent, in fact) that rather than my script being one of the best in this competition, it's actually one of the worst. Thanks a lot, Marjory, really appreciate it. Next time you make the winner's circle, I guarantee you I won't question on a public board whether you really deserve to be there.

For the record, I find the suggestion that 20 scripts were plucked from the bottom of the pile and simply dropped into the quarterfinals to be ridiculous. Unless you believe every word they've said is a lie (in which case there's nothing to talk about anyway), there was at least one round of judging between the time the reader evaluated those 75 scripts and when the quarter-finalists were chosen. (Actually, from what I've read, including a re-post from you, Marjory, there were at least two. Even if you assume Margeaux's read moved those twenty from the bottom to the top 200, which isn't a given, there was a cut from 200 to 70, then 70 to 50.)

Author: Stephen Hoover Posted: 07/08/10 05:24 PM

Feeling low? Hardly.

Congrats, Robert. You are a positive board poster here and inwish you the best.

If you keep bombing out of contests, stop entering. Take some classes. Hire a consultant. Or maybe you just aren't a writer.

I like sports but I'll never be a pro athlete. Recognize the limitations of your abilities and move on to another more physically beneficial activity.

Posting on here every contest is a scam, they're all out to get me. You're putting out negative energy into the world. Do something positive instead. Volunteer at a school or charity or hospital.

Recognize your limitations and act accordingly. You'll be a happier and healthier human being.

Author: Marjory Kaptanoglu Posted: 07/08/10 05:42 PM

Robert, I never meant for a minute to question the worthiness of the top 50, and I apologize if that's the way it seemed. I only meant to say that there could've been other worthies that were bypassed. I do wish you and the other 49 quarterfinalists the best, and if placing in this contest gives a big boost to your careers, I think that's wonderful.

Moreover, I don't believe for a minute that 20 scripts were plucked from the bottom of the heap. I think that description was a weak attempt to explain away Margaux's role in the judging.

However, I find your words troubling in that they suggest we can never question the inner workings of a contest, for fear that it might be upsetting to those among the group who have placed.

I'll try not to rain on anyone else's parade. In fact, I think I'll be staying off the board from now on. It's not worth the time and the headache.

Author: Robert Watson Posted: 07/08/10 06:58 PM

Thanks for your words, Marjory.

However, to be clear, I'm in no way suggesting that people shouldn't post whatever they want. I tend not to go negative here, but people are free to say what they please. And if I have an opposing point of view, I'll feel free to post it. Just as anybody who disagrees with something I say is free to say so. I took issue with what you posted, I didn't say you shouldn't be free to post it.

Author: Susan Russell Posted: 07/08/10 09:18 PM

Marjory, Thanks for your input on this topic. I agree with everything you've said (including the defense of the opening of Inglourious Basterds!) I don't know why some people are so down on anyone who suggests any contest is not completely on the up-and-up.

And God help you if you question a contest you entered and didn't advance in -- then it matters not how much time you've put into writing, rewriting, reading scripts and books, taking classes, etc. etc. because you've been outed as a whiner blaming contests for your lack of success!

Oops, back from that mini-rant.... I don't think you or anyone else gave the least indication that Stephen, Irin and Robert didn't deserve their placements (as if those guys don't have a proven track record).

I enjoyed discussing how many pages a judge should read and the ethics of Margaux's actions. Not sure how it went downhill so quickly. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

Thanks to everyone else who was interested in the discussion and in particular to James, who called out "David Barkley" on using his pseudonym for nefarious purposes. I knew that poser was going to be bad news! (Don't worry "David," I'm just "kidding" -- and under my real name, no less).

Author: David Barkley Posted: 07/08/10 09:52 PM

Okay, I'll admit it. I got snarky, which I said I wouldn't do. Nefarious is going a bit too far, but I'll certainly own up to snarky. Mainly because I just like the word snarky. My apologies, and I'll try, really I will, not to let it happen again. But I'm not making any promises. Still besties?

Snarky!!!

Author: Janet Hogate Posted: 07/08/10 10:33 PM

Snarky? Dagummit! Now Im really confused. Michael S. help me out here. Who says snarky around here besides Robert?

And if you say its that M. Donald guy (just about the only absent moviebyter that placed in this contest) forget it! Mr psuedo-man doesnt have an accent.

Oh well, this has been fun but I gotta go, my SYTYCD is on and I missed it last week while I was on vacation. Tally ho or cheriO or whatever it is his people say.

Just kidding..... Mike. British guys rock!

Author: James F. Hollmer Posted: 07/08/10 11:56 PM

He was said to have committed other acts to nefarious to contemplate, along with Watson could be heinous, depraved, odious, infernal, villainous, detestable, that might be to strong, but evil, foul, and shameful.

Author: James F. Hollmer Posted: 07/09/10 12:01 AM



Make that Winton, sorry Robert!!

Author: James Pickering Posted: 07/09/10 04:01 AM

You mean the secret about the way us Brits act is out? I do in fact have crumpets and a cup of earl grey tea every morning for breakfast (my bed is in fact made out of crumpets - really comfy!), we all have really bad teeth cause it's not covered in our NHS and we all sound like either Hugh Grant or a cockney gangster from a Guy Ritchie flick.

Cherio!

Author: Marjory Kaptanoglu Posted: 07/09/10 09:20 AM

Thank you, Susan. And thanks for starting this topic. I've learned some things.

And James, thanks for confirming you Brits are exactly as we Yanks imagine:-)

Author: James Schannep Posted: 07/09/10 10:03 AM

So does this mean we're done fighting and can go back to helping each other break into screenwriting?

That's why I'm here, other than to muse confusedly over all the inside jokes you guys make to one another.

P.S. I've always wanted to know, what's a crumpet?

Author: Janet Hogate Posted: 07/09/10 10:10 AM

James H. you goofball. Robert can't be Mr. Psuedoman AND Walter Winton. He would have been having a RIDICULOUS 3-way conversation with him self a ways back. Try a little harder would you please?

Author: Paula Smith Posted: 07/09/10 01:34 PM

Well now you've all just gotten boring with your kissy kissy.

Seriously, you will learn something (or be entertained) from most posts. That's why I just can't seem to stay away even if it's just checking interesting topics for a few minutes.

Author: James Pickering Posted: 07/09/10 01:47 PM

You must have crumpets in America! They're probaly called something else; you always change our language and make up your own words... ;p

Author: Bobbette Findley Posted: 07/09/10 02:02 PM

The closest we have to crumpets are Thomas' English muffins. Crumpets are sweet, so if you aded sugar to the dough of the muffin and bake as usual, you'd have a crumpet.

Author: James Schannep Posted: 07/09/10 04:19 PM

Too much effort. Can someone just mail me some?

Also, we may change spellings but at least we don't call aluminum 'aloominium' or say 'anyfing'!

Author: James Pickering Posted: 07/09/10 04:29 PM

Yeah but you call a photocopier a Xerox machine; that's just silly.

Author: James F. Hollmer Posted: 07/09/10 07:06 PM



Hey Bubba, A crumpet is a McDoe 1 dollar double cheese and fat fries. Here the Television is not called the tellle, or I dont live in a flat or travel in a tube. Her bum, well we may need your definition of that one, and we step on crickets, and play FOOTBALL with helmets. We dont order a pint, we check to see if the mountians are blue that the beer is ready to drink. We dont call women birds, we ride mechanical bulls. There is plenty of ice, we dont call people chap, and we dont say bloody good show!

Author: Bobbette Findley Posted: 07/09/10 07:14 PM

James F - That was a bloody good post!! You're a right funny git!! LOL

Author: L.J. Wright Posted: 07/10/10 01:33 AM

I'm number 100

Author: Chris Bloom Posted: 07/10/10 02:03 AM

Ha! And I'm 101.

What a roller coaster. I'm exhausted.

Author: L.J. Wright Posted: 07/10/10 02:34 AM

Sequel, 102 dalmations