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Old 07-02-2010, 10:29 AM   #1
JeffLowell
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Default Why I don't like (most) contests

I got all worked up about contests again last night, and I'm stripping my latest rant out of the other thread - no need to single out one contest, because they're all pretty much the same.

I got pointed to a blog written by a reader of one of the popular contests:

Quote:
Last night I managed to get through 75 scripts in about 3 hours. How are you so speedy and brilliant, you might ask? Easy, the 10 page rule. It’s true. All those stories about “make sure you grab ‘em in the first 10 pages” are absolutely true.

Honestly, I can tell in 2-3 pages if you are a writer. Then I give you 10 pages to show if you are a GOOD writer. If you’ve kept me going that far, then I’ll read further to see how you develop your plot. If you understand how to construct a midpoint, battle scene, and satisfying ending. And if your voice continues throughout, or if it tuckered out when the heavy lifting came into play.

Of the 75 I read last night, I advanced 20 to the next round, which was actually more generous than I should have been. What can I say, I’m a bit of a pushover.
75 scripts, 3 hours. That's two and a half minutes per script, on average. Fifty bucks to get a judge to spend two and a half minutes reading your first few pages. And to do a little obvious math - the 20 that were passed on didn't get read all the way through. Unless after passing on 55 scripts, the reader found time in their three hours to read around 2000 more pages.

My guess? Most tossed on first two to three pages, if it seemed fine until page ten, it went on to the next round.

Of course, what that means is that most scripts haven't even hit their inciting incident yet. Night At The Museum? Judging by the first 10, it's a story about a guy who can't keep a job and his son is disappointed in him. Yawn. PASS!

It's why these commercial contests drive me nuts. (I'm not talking about Nicholl, Disney, Austin, etc.) They're moneymaking operations, pure and simple. Do a few people make some cash or get read by a manager? Sure. You need winners, so you can promote them and get more people to enter next year.

It's just skeevy.
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Old 07-02-2010, 10:39 AM   #2
NikeeGoddess
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Default Re: Why I don't like (most) contests

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Originally Posted by JeffLowell View Post
They're moneymaking operations, pure and simple. Do a few people make some cash or get read by a manager? Sure. You need winners, so you can promote them and get more people to enter next year.

It's just skeevy.
i agree. the purse is hardly a draw b/c it feels like a crap shoot. if they can't show results (like on imdb) from past winners then i usually don't bother any more.
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Old 07-02-2010, 10:41 AM   #3
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Default Re: Why I don't like (most) contests

No legitimate competition would hand any individual reader 75 scripts at the same time, or accept 75 scripts being turned over in one day. That's appalling.
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Old 07-02-2010, 10:44 AM   #4
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Default Re: Why I don't like (most) contests

That's a real scary quote, Jeff. Do you know what contest this person was reading for? I would assume any director of a contest would fire any reader who approached their entries this way. I'm wondering if this is the exception or if anyone has proof this is the standard for contest readers out there. I know a reader that's bound to read the entire script regardless of her initial thoughts. She reads for a mid-level contest.

I'm with you for the most part. I've entered 3 contests in my 6 years of writing. I just don't trust many of them. However I'm not sure this quote is indicative of most contests. I'd love to know for sure.
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Old 07-02-2010, 10:49 AM   #5
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Default Re: Why I don't like (most) contests

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Originally Posted by Telly View Post
That's a real scary quote, Jeff. Do you know what contest this person was reading for? I would assume any director of a contest would fire any reader who approached their entries this way.
he blogged it - the fool... or savior depending on who's reading it.
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Old 07-02-2010, 10:50 AM   #6
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Default Re: Why I don't like (most) contests

I once entered a contest in Florida. It included an analysis after the competition was over. I didn't advance and the analysis was one of the worst I ever received. The primary problem was that it was, according to the reader, "borderline racist". It was about a wine grape grower. At one point he picks up a beautiful hispanic woman at a hispanic bar and runs into men who object to him being there. It is integral to the story as she ends up saving his harvest. As someone once said, please keep your dirty mind off my clean story.

The next week, the same script was a finalist at the Acclaim Film competition in NY, got many reads, finished in the top 10 at Expo, and ultimately read by Clint Eastwood.
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Old 07-02-2010, 10:54 AM   #7
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Default Re: Why I don't like (most) contests

Unless you are reading for the Happy Nice People competition, it shouldn't make a difference whether you think the material is racist or not. Writing competitions are not competitions for politically correct awards. They are writing competitions and what you judge is the writing. Or that is what you are supposed to be judging.
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Old 07-02-2010, 11:03 AM   #8
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Default Re: Why I don't like (most) contests

I think GiG you touch on my main problem with contests.

Back in the day when I was a reader for agencies and such, I'd get a fair number of contest scripts to cover. Obviously we only got the ones that did well.

The majority of these were decently written to some degree, but were far afield from the commercial parameters that described the kind of scripts we were looking for.

The better part of the scripts that I covered that came from within the Hollywood community were scripts with strong (or at least clear) concepts and mediocre execution.

So, I found that contests will reward good writing, but the writing in itself is not what most agents or producers are looking for. Which to me makes most contests an exercise in futility.
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Old 07-02-2010, 11:19 AM   #9
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Default Re: Why I don't like (most) contests

I judged for a contest for two years. I had a week to read 100+ scripts and post comments on each one. There just is not enough time to read an entire 100+ page script if you know it's crap from Page 1 or even Page 10, because I gave everyone the first dozen to show me that had it... it is not worth the time-wasting gamble giving a bad writer the benefit of the doubt to pick up his game from Page 50 onwards. You have to come out of the gate firing on all cylinders right away -- how many pages would a studio exec or "reader" give them?

Saying that, if I think the writing is decent, and has an actual chance, I read the whole thing -- mainly due to the fact I just freed up some time by dumping the chum back into the water, and I can take my time on it...
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Old 07-02-2010, 11:57 AM   #10
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Default Re: Why I don't like (most) contests

I think the best contests to enter are:

1) Nicholl

2) Fellowships with direct pipelines to studios. These include WB, ABC, CBS, Fox Diversity workshops. The "downside" is that you need to be in LA to complete these.

3) Respected labs such as Sundance and Film Independent labs.

The contests to avoid are:

1) Contests that tout "Grand prize worth $10,000" type where the cash itself is only $500 or $1000. Then you get some software you will never use (OMG, valued at $1000), dinner with someone (valued at $500), script consulting, etc, etc.

2) Contests with endless deadlines. Super-early deadline, early-early deadline, deadline, late deadline, midnight deadline. I think any script contest with more choices than fuel choices at a gas pump is sketchy.

3) Contests with no real track record.

4) Contests with lots of quarterfinalists, semi-finalists, etc.
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