First Ten Pages: What Readers Want

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  • #46
    Originally posted by Vango View Post

    In my opinion, I think you're a little mistaken, because a lot of doors to studios and prod companies have opened for me due to the prestige of the Nicholl/Academy -- without querying anyone. It really can be a career changing event, and would encourage you to apply if you're eligible. It is also validating, because your script is being voted on my academy members who are widely revered in the industry.
    No attack, just a correction as you've misunderstood what I was saying.

    I was referring to a tired/boring concept and how prodcos aren't going to suddenly change their mind about a concept just because of its success* in a competition. The asterik is because Joe defines success as simply progressing (ie: past the first round). I was referring to competitions in general and not just the big three (where even a QF doesn't mean too much) and so winning Screamfest, BlueCat, WeScreenplay and a host of others you've never heard of - let alone just 'progressing' in them - is not going to make anyone break down your door or change their mind about a formula they think is dead in the water. That's what I meant when I said the industry doesn't care about competitions. And even if your script Finaled Nicholl, if Hollywood doesn't feel it's marketable (and 99% of Nicholl finalists aren't) then it's not getting made.

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    • #47
      Originally posted by sundowninretreat View Post
      no attack, just a correction as you've misunderstood what i was saying.

      i was referring to a tired/boring concept and how prodcos aren't going to suddenly change their mind about a concept just because of its success* in a competition. The asterik is because joe defines success as simply progressing (ie: Past the first round). I was referring to competitions in general and not just the big three (where even a qf doesn't mean too much) and so winning screamfest, bluecat, wescreenplay and a host of others you've never heard of - let alone just 'progressing' in them - is not going to make anyone break down your door or change their mind about a formula they think is dead in the water. That's what i meant when i said the industry doesn't care about competitions. And even if your script finaled nicholl, if hollywood doesn't feel it's marketable (and 99% of nicholl finalists aren't) then it's not getting made.
      n o p e

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      • #48
        The broad and wild assumptions presented as facts are astounding.
        Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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        • #49
          Originally posted by SundownInRetreat View Post

          winning Screamfest, BlueCat, WeScreenplay and a host of others you've never heard of - let alone just 'progressing' in them - is not going to make anyone break down your door or change their mind about a formula they think is dead in the water. That's what I meant when I said the industry doesn't care about competitions. And even if your script Finaled Nicholl, if Hollywood doesn't feel it's marketable (and 99% of Nicholl finalists aren't) then it's not getting made.
          Hamboogul won the BlueCat Screenplay Competition with a non-commercial screenplay and he's now a working professional in the industry. He said that the BlueCat win played a part in his success.

          So, SundownInRetreat, I suggest you stop making such sweeping accusations.

          Edited to add:

          To clarify about small and medium size contests: No, the industry is not paying attention to these contests. For advance writers, I would not recommend spending money on a small or medium size contest.

          The main reason a writer enters a contest is to get validation for his script to show the industry that it has been vetted and worth a read. The best way to achieve this is with the big competitions, such as, the Nicholl, Page, Austin. Mainly the Nicholl.

          With that said, there are valid reasons for a writer to enter a small or medium size contest:

          A new writer wants to get an idea on how his writing stands up/competes against his peers who are at the same level of development as them. I remember when I entered my first completed screenplay into a medium size competition and it advanced. Oh man, I was flying high. This gave me great confidence. This told me I just might have something. This showing gave me the hope and persistence to continue in the face of all the rejection that came after.

          Some of these medium size contests work hard to obtain a manager for their winners.

          A small or medium size contest may have an industry judge that's a perfect fit for a writer's screenplay.

          Some small and medium size contests offer free feedback and a new writer may want to get a judges' impressions on his writing/screenplay.

          SundownInRetreat had shown a lot of negativity, so I just wanted to put another view out there because writers are not unoriginal clones. We are all unique with different needs and wants. What might not be a good road for one writer doesn't mean it will not be a good road for someone else.
          Last edited by JoeNYC; 10-17-2020, 03:24 AM.

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          • #50
            Originally posted by JoeNYC View Post

            He said that the BlueCat win played a part in his success.
            My recollection is that Hamboogul got his break on the back of recognition and validation elsewhere. 'Playing a part' is so non-specific as to not counter what I said. Had he said it was integral in opening doors (he didn't) then even that would only make him an outlier so my comment stands.

            To clarify about small and medium size contests: No, the industry is not paying attention to these contests.
            In other words you're agreeing with what I said.
            Which has also been stated by the industry pros and players,

            SundownInRetreat had shown a lot of negativity
            I told it like it is. As Jeff did about the difficulty in making a TV career. That you want to disregard it 'cause it disrupts the 'logic' of your plan to break in is your issue. You wanna disagree and continue your wholesale pattern of repeatedly dismissing pro advice? Go for it, makes no odds to me.

            I suggest you stop making such sweeping accusations.
            I suggest you actually post an opposite stance to me rather than posting digs that fail to mask your agreement.
            I also suggest you understand that a lion doesn't care about the opinions of sheep.

            .
            Last edited by SundownInRetreat; 10-17-2020, 03:48 PM.

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            • #51
              Vango says:

              "...a lot of doors to studios and prod companies have opened for me due to the prestige of the Nicholl/Academy -- without querying anyone."

              This is direct proof studios and prodcos DO pay attention to Nicholl winners. Do they rush to purchase the winning script? Rarely. However they rush to connect with the writer.

              They're looking for fresh voices they can consider for assignments. Which is the lion's share of writing work in the industry.

              Whether you enter contests or not, a spec script is an advertisement for your writing skills.

              That's why the first 10 pages are so important (the topic of the thread).
              Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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              • #52
                https://twitter.com/tonytost/status/...503266816?s=20

                I didn't want to start my own thread since this one was so recent -- but this was very good that this writer wrote:

                At the start of things, those 5-10 pages may be more important than the entirety of your script simply because those opening pages might determine whether or not the industry person reading your script is gonna toss your script aside with a shrug and never think of you again.

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                • #53
                  Originally posted by Bono View Post
                  [URL="https://twitter.com/tonytost/status/1362597125503266816?s=20"] those opening pages might determine whether or not the industry person reading your script is gonna toss your script aside with a shrug and never think of you again.
                  Welcome to Hollywood, son.

                  And keep this in mind all you new writers out there, to even get an industry person to read at least your opening ten pages to see if your screenplay is worthy of their precious time and energy, you gotta find a way to somehow get them to request it. To achieve success in writing strong screenplays doesn't just happen. It takes a herculean combination of creative talent and years of writing, re-writing, studying, reading, analyzing, connecting, luck, etc.
                  Last edited by JoeNYC; 02-22-2021, 04:19 AM.

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                  • #54
                    Originally posted by Bono View Post
                    https://twitter.com/tonytost/status/...503266816?s=20

                    I didn't want to start my own thread since this one was so recent -- but this was very good that this writer wrote:

                    At the start of things, those 5-10 pages may be more important than the entirety of your script simply because those opening pages might determine whether or not the industry person reading your script is gonna toss your script aside with a shrug and never think of you again.
                    A lot like the first 5 to 10 minutes of a blind date.
                    Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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                    • #55
                      Good example. It's amazing how quickly an opinion can form of someone. Just their voice alone can end it before it begins. Just heard a writer's voice on a podcast and I was "out" instantly. So the same is true of the voice on the page.

                      We keep making excuses on why we should give scripts a chance -- but that's not reality. It's nice to hear it from more established people too. And the funny part is -- like you said about blind dates -- we do the same thing all the time. Judge something instantly. Yet many writers -- when it's their baby -- only see how cute it is. They don't see that there's a full diaper of sh&t.

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                      • #56
                        I think what readers want is Batman and Iron Man and Wanda so I guess throw Marvel/DC characters into your spec is the way to go? I think I cracked the code. Also Tom Cruise. And sexy animated rabbits. And of course Frances McDormand.

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                        • #57
                          For unproduced spec writers, I think you need dynamite from page one. You've gotta make some moves and show what you're capable of in that first page, because the reader's instinct is to think your script sucks. 99% of the scripts they read suck, so if they're not impressed right away, it's more than likely going in the pass pile.
                          Heard QT talking about this with True Romance, which was his first spec, he put the big Clarence "Elvis" monologue on the first page. Something that grabs them immediately, dialogue or action, gives the reader confidence that they're in good hands. Then they can relax and appreciate the rest of your script.

                          (Until they get to that contrived horse **** Hollywood ending you wrote)

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                          • #58
                            Man, going back through this thread is a funny read.
                            I never really got the concept of contests. If you think your script is good enough to win, instead of shelling out entry fees, waiting 6 months and depending on an unknown reader's opinion, why wouldn't you just query actual Hollywood lit reps immediately and for free?

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                            • #59
                              Originally posted by Jimmy View Post
                              For unproduced spec writers, I think you need dynamite from page one. You've gotta make some moves and show what you're capable of in that first page, because the reader's instinct is to think your script sucks.
                              Hi, Jimmy.

                              I'm not repped, but I've learned a lot from the members here, and I think having that mindset you describe -- "make your script sing from page 1" -- is essential for amateurs like me. Bono and other folks have advised as much in other threads. Anything that can give the unknown and untrusted writer an edge.

                              As for contests and cold queries, they're both crapshoots, but I do both because I'm confident-enough in my ideas and abilities, and I'm not afraid of failure.

                              My querying usually yields no responses from managers. And those responses I've gotten have gone nowhere. But I query for that .000001% chance my logline will connect with a manager and the .0000000001% chance my script will connect with a manager.

                              I don't have the time to network, so the only other way in is through contests - Nicholl and AFF. Such that, if I place, I have the weight of those trusted contests behind me.

                              In the absence of high contest placement, however, to most managers I'm just another unknown, untrusted Joe Schmo with stars in my eyes.
                              Save the date: Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020

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                              • #60
                                Originally posted by Bono View Post
                                Good example. It's amazing how quickly an opinion can form of someone. Just their voice alone can end it before it begins. Just heard a writer's voice on a podcast and I was "out" instantly. So the same is true of the voice on the page.

                                We keep making excuses on why we should give scripts a chance -- but that's not reality. It's nice to hear it from more established people too. And the funny part is -- like you said about blind dates -- we do the same thing all the time. Judge something instantly. Yet many writers -- when it's their baby -- only see how cute it is. They don't see that there's a full diaper of sh&t.
                                Actually, when it comes to writing scripts, it's likely a higher standard than blind dates.

                                Hooking a reader immediately, ideally with the first five to ten sentences, separates the wheat from the chaff because gatekeepers are looking to winnow down the pile of scripts they have to read. Gatekeepers are our first readers. For their own sanity and job security, they're not looking for reasons to hand your work up the ladder, they're looking for reasons to toss your work because the pipeline is already very crowded.

                                I understand why -- they read thousands of scripts and you have to write in a way that gives them the immediate impression they're in good hands and you're not going to drop the ball on page two with a slew of novice mistakes.

                                Yes -- a script can be structurally tight, free of typos, with action lines that never confuse, but if you open with:

                                The alarm clock rings, Mary (attractive, 25. in pajamas), turns it off, swings out of bed, and heads into the bathroom.

                                Though there's nothing wrong with that first line, you're not giving the gatekeeper a reason to sit up and take notice. They've likely read a couple hundred scripts that open the same exact way. And you end up offering what Craig Mazin once said when he was active here (paraphrasing): a good imitation of a screenplay. I never forgot that one nugget of advice.

                                One of the things I do is write an opening, then throw out the first version, and then force myself to come up with a better opening. Because our first unconscious impulse is usually to think of something similar to what we've seen before.

                                And you can't simply fix this by entering the story later, if you're still in imitation mode:

                                Mary (attractive, 25, work attire), steps out of a cab and heads into the office building.

                                (OR)

                                Mary (attractive, 25, work attire), steps off the elevator and approaches the reception desk.

                                (OR)

                                Mary (attractive, 25, work attire), takes the seat at her desk and turns on her computer.

                                None of these openings are wrong. But none of these openings scream at the reader: "Hey, you're gonna love this script." And, frankly, that should be the benchmark if you're looking to break in.

                                Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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