Confessions of a Contest Judge

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  • #31
    Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

    Nike,
    You're thinking about Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman. In it he mentions a discussion with Paul Newman. Goldman says the first ten pages of a screenplay are the most important; Newman says it's the last ten minutes of a film.

    BC&TSK has the opening scene with the new bank. Things are getting harder; times are changing. Humor in it as well establishing the tone.

    Original opening of SUNSET BOULEVARD had the protagonist in a morgue. Audiences hated that. The pool floating it was.

    Original ending to BC&TSK had them (according to a book I read recently) being blown away by the Bolivian army. That was changed to the freeze, sepia-toned fade with sound over. They went from criminals shot down in the street to immortality. But it's hard to believe that wasn't in the original sold spec. Can anyone verify one way or the other? Film fans here?

    Also heard debate as to the accuracy of audience testing changing the ending to FATAL ATTRACTION. Somene was at a McKee conference and an actor in the film said, "That's not true" but he didn't stop to let her elaborate.
    "I talked to a couple of yes men at Metro. To me they said no."


    http://wagstaffnet.blogspot.com/

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    • #32
      Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

      Originally posted by C.C.Baxter View Post
      Nike,
      You're thinking about Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman. In it he mentions a discussion with Paul Newman. Goldman says the first ten pages of a screenplay are the most important; Newman says it's the last ten minutes of a film.
      She really was thinking of Adaptation.

      Comment


      • #33
        Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

        The point is: If you can't write ten good pages, you can't write a good screenplay.

        Nobody wants to read your script. They are looking for reasons to stop.
        "I talked to a couple of yes men at Metro. To me they said no."


        http://wagstaffnet.blogspot.com/

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        • #34
          Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

          Charlie Kaufman: [voice-over] I am pathetic, I am a loser...
          Robert McKee: So what is the substance of writing?
          Charlie Kaufman: [voice-over] I have failed, I am panicked. I've sold out, I am worthless, I... What the **** am I doing here? What the **** am I doing here? ****. It is my weakness, my ultimate lack of conviction that brings me here. Easy answers used to shortcut yourself to success. And here I am because my jump into the abysmal well - isn't that just a risk one takes when attempting something new? I should leave here right now. I'll start over. I need to face this project head on and...
          Robert McKee: ...and God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends. God help you. That's flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write a voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character.

          [at a seminar, Charlie Kaufman has asked McKee for advice on his new screenplay in which 'nothing much happens']

          Robert McKee: Nothing happens in the world? Are you out of your fuvcking mind? People are murdered every day. There's genocide, war, corruption. Every ****ing day, somewhere in the world, somebody sacrifices his life to save someone else. Every ****ing day, someone, somewhere takes a conscious decision to destroy someone else. People find love, people lose it. For Christ's sake, a child watches her mother beaten to death on the steps of a church. Someone goes hungry. Somebody else betrays his best friend for a woman. If you can't find that stuff in life, then you, my friend, don't know crap about life! And why the FvCK are you wasting my two precious hours with your movie? I don't have any use for it! I don't have any bloody use for it!
          Charlie Kaufman: Okay, thanks.

          [to Charlie]
          Robert McKee: I'll tell you a secret. The last act makes a film. Wow them in the end, and you got a hit. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you've got a hit. Find an ending, but don't cheat, and don't you dare bring in a deus ex machina. Your characters must change, and the change must come from them. Do that, and you'll be fine.
          Last night, Jesus appeared to me in a dream and told me that loving me is the part of His job He hates the most.

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          • #35
            Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

            wow! thanks you two (sinnycal & natasha).
            adaptation was a great symbol of irony for screenwriters.

            Comment


            • #36
              Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

              Originally posted by ProBono Writer View Post
              Once again I think there're too many assumptions here.

              You say you could weed out the terrible scripts/films. True. But when a judge can only allow 3 scripts out of the 200 they read to move on to the next round, you CANNOT tell what the best 3 are by skimming the first 10 and randomly selecting a few other pages.

              No one's saying the first 10 shouldn't be good. But you can't tell whether a whole script is good unless you read the whole script.

              I'm willing to bet more than the "top 3" from that round had a solid first 10. Odds are, some of the "losers dropped" were better than the top 3. How would you know for sure if you only read a few pages?
              There are a couple assumptions here as well, the biggest one being the idea that every script only gets ten pages.

              That's not true. Only the BAD scripts get just ten pages. And I mean really bad. A friend recently judged a contest and said most scripts were terrible (and he used a bad word in front of terrible...). He said maybe ten percent of what he read were competently written - you know, uses the english language, looks like a screenplay, that kind of competent. not even qualifying how good what's actually inside the pages is. for that, he said it was a fight between the top 1% - so in fact "odds" are 3/200 is more than generous to find the absolute best of the bunch.

              taking the 10% rule, out of 200 scripts, that's 20 scripts from which to choose the three best. the first 150 are so bad that they just need a cursory glance (and i'm sorry to burst any bubbles, but a cursory glance will reveal level of writing - i.e. the difference between a kindergartner who's written their first sentence and a senior writing a thesis).

              as far as finding the top 3, those 20 will have to be vetted a little more which is to say more than the first ten will be read. they don't pick the winner without reading the whole thing.

              ultimately there's a lack of trust, which i get. sometimes it's warranted - most times it's not. what i find disgusting is that most people don't trust readers more than they don't trust their own opinion of their writing ability.
              Last edited by killertv; 08-10-2010, 01:51 PM.

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              • #37
                Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

                Originally posted by NikeeGoddess View Post
                wow! thanks you two (sinnycal & natasha).
                adaptation was a great symbol of irony for screenwriters.


                Yes. Adaptation was Charlie Kaufman telling the hollywood template to go f**k itself. He is mocking those so-called experts every minute of that film. Especially in the scene above with the voice over.



                I do not buy the idea that your first ten pages have to be great. Or at least, a reader, after reading the first ten pages can determine if the screenplay is great or horrible. I've had people tell me (about one of my screenplays in particular) that my first act was slow, but that when they finished, they realized that the first act had to be that way. That they realized the setup was perfect.


                Not that I'm Charlie Kaufman, but there is no way your Act One should be better than your Act Three.



                Just another rant...



                :-)
                Last edited by KenRichards; 08-10-2010, 03:07 PM.

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                • #38
                  Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

                  But there is a difference between a slow-starting screenplay and a horribly, badly written screenplay.

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                  • #39
                    Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

                    Originally posted by UrbanSpice View Post
                    But there is a difference between a slow-starting screenplay and a horribly, badly written screenplay.
                    Yes, I agree with the above. And I agree that often you can tell quickly that the writer has or doesn't have "it."



                    But people PAY money to have their screenplays read. These screenplays are not submitted to production companies for consideration. They are submitted to a screenplay competition. If a judge is going to eliminate some screenplays after reading only 10 pages, I would at least hope they'd be discreet about it.



                    .

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                    • #40
                      Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

                      No one's saying Act One should be better than Act Three. I'm just saying Act One - and especially the first ten pages - can't SUCK.

                      Originally posted by KenRichards View Post

                      But people PAY money to have their screenplays read.
                      Contestants pay to be JUDGED, NOT READ. Anyone who wants to pay to be read needs to find a cheap script coverage service.

                      Originally posted by KenRichards View Post
                      These screenplays are not submitted to production companies for consideration.
                      While I think that most legitimate competitions send winning scripts to production companies, my bigger problem with this statement is the idea that competition scripts don't need to be written on a professional level. What's the point of even having contests then?

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                      • #41
                        Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

                        Originally posted by killertv View Post
                        No one's saying Act One should be better than Act Three. I'm just saying Act One - and especially the first ten pages - can't SUCK.



                        Contestants pay to be JUDGED, NOT READ. Anyone who wants to pay to be read needs to find a cheap script coverage service.



                        While I think that most legitimate competitions send winning scripts to production companies, my bigger problem with this statement is the idea that competition scripts don't need to be written on a professional level. What's the point of even having contests then?

                        Killer, you are equating READING a screenplay with COVERING a screenplay. No one entering a competition should expect COVERAGE. But they are completely in their rights to expect the screenplay will be READ.


                        I'll say it again. You can not judge a screenplay when reading only 10 pages. Period.



                        And you are right. There are coverage services. And they give feedback. And they are paid usually FOUR TIMES what it costs to enter a competition.


                        Are you a reader who doesn't want to read screenplays? I was. Do you know what I did? I quit reading. If you are going to call yourself a reader, then read the freaking screenplays you are assigned.


                        Contests who routinely toss screenplays after 3, 5, 10 or 15 pages are SCAMS.


                        I'm not saying that occasionally this shouldn't happen. But judging screenplays (even favorably!) based on 10 pages is my definition of scam.



                        .

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                        • #42
                          Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

                          Originally posted by KenRichards View Post
                          If you are going to call yourself a reader, then read the freaking screenplays you are assigned.
                          I applaud your words. I think you captured the essence of this whole debacle: due diligence. If you do your job, none of this would have happened in the first place...none of it.
                          The best way out is always through. - Robert Frost

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                          • #43
                            Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

                            Here's an exercise:

                            Read the first three pages of Clear Winter Noon (a 2008 Black List script) as if you were reading for the first round of a contest and then report back here and tell us whether or not you'd advance it based on those pages.

                            (You can find the script in a number of places online.)

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                            • #44
                              Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

                              Ken, we may ultimately agree to disagree, but I want to be clear about my position.

                              Reading and covering are different. It's also different from judging. Contests don't have to read or cover - they just have to judge. I don't agree that you can't judge a script on the first ten pages. All you have to do is read the first ten pages and have an opinion. That's judging. We can argue whether or not it's morally correct or not, but a majority of readers will have an opinion after ten pages that will color their opinion of the rest of the script IF they read it. And in a contest, they don't have to.

                              There are lots of coverage services, expensive and cheap. I know of one that costs the price of a competition (anyone interested in details PM). The reader doesn't have much experience (hence the low cost) but if someone wants their script read beginning to end, coverage is the way to pay for it unless a competition states otherwise. And most don't. Because most with a bad opening aren't worth a full read. Maybe one out of a hundred (MAYBE - I would love to find one example of this though I don't think there is) but in that case, I doubt another script with a better opening doesn't end even better. Ergo, that script isn't a winner.

                              I don't think it's fair on the contests to say they shouldn't toss screenplays after five or ten pages. If you've ever read a large volume of truly amateur screenplays, you know after five pages if the script could be a winner or a loser out of a thousand other scripts. Maybe the first ten are great and the last ten are terrible, but if it starts well the benefit of the doubt is maybe it will end well. If it starts badly, there is no benefit - and very rarely any doubt about how well it ends.

                              Why wouldn't we write an opening that makes the reader want to finish our script? Shouldn't we work on accomplishing that - and making our script as good as possible - before paying money to enter the script in a contest? Should we blame the contest if we lose our money because we didn't do that?

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                              • #45
                                Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

                                Originally posted by SuperScribe View Post
                                Here's an exercise:

                                Read the first three pages of Clear Winter Noon (a 2008 Black List script) as if you were reading for the first round of a contest and then report back here and tell us whether or not you'd advance it based on those pages.

                                (You can find the script in a number of places online.)
                                I want to keep reading it. How bout that?

                                There's good screenwriting - visual action lines, natural dialogue, etc.

                                There's narrative tension - why is Saul in jail? What's he going to do when he's out? How will his storyline dovetail with George's? What's their relationship like? Where's the mother of George's daughters?

                                This is obviously a competently written script. The ones that get thrown out AREN'T. I feel like y'all don't understand how bad these scripts are...

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