Confessions of a Contest Judge

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  • killertv
    replied
    Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

    Originally posted by ProBono Writer View Post
    Since this is in response to my post, I'll assume you're talking to me. I haven't said a thing about my writing ability. If I suck, it still doesn't make these practices acceptable. I'm only speaking of the seemingly arbitrary process involved. But hey, maybe you're disgusted by someone else.

    What disgusts me is when writers defend anything that makes breaking in harder for other writers. And all of these "confessions" threads are just an indication that the deck is stacked worse than most people (who think their script is being read) expect.
    apologies, i didn't intend that to be directed at you so much as the tone of these sorts of threads. i don't disagree with you on the deck being stacked, but i get tired of hearing people talk about how this or that convention is wrong or morally reprehensible seemingly without hearing the call to make our writing better than it is. i'm not defending the practice so much as advocating the need to understand it to write through it

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  • ProBono Writer
    replied
    Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

    Originally posted by killertv View Post
    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.
    Okay, maybe this is true. But the way it's presented seems like EVERY script gets the ten page treatment, then the "good ones" may get more pages read in later rounds.

    As stated, you can tell a bad script from ten pages, but you can't tell a good one.

    Originally posted by killertv View Post
    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.
    If this were true, then a script that made the Semifinals (let's say top 10%) should score that high in every competition, right? Or at least the Quarterfinals (assume top 25%) for certain, no? This is most certainly not always the case.

    I've followed scripts that are in the Finalists (or even runners-up) in one contest, only to get axed before the first round in another. A reader not reading a script seems like a pretty good explanation for this phenomenon.

    Originally posted by killertv View Post
    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.
    Since this is in response to my post, I'll assume you're talking to me. I haven't said a thing about my writing ability. If I suck, it still doesn't make these practices acceptable. I'm only speaking of the seemingly arbitrary process involved. But hey, maybe you're disgusted by someone else.

    What disgusts me is when writers defend anything that makes breaking in harder for other writers. And all of these "confessions" threads are just an indication that the deck is stacked worse than most people (who think their script is being read) expect.

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  • instant_karma
    replied
    Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

    Originally posted by killertv View Post
    What's the point of even having contests then?
    With a couple of exceptions, I'm pretty sure the point is to generate revenue for the contest holders.

    Perhaps I am cynical, but I just don't believe that they are all set up to 'champion the writer'.

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

    Just to be on record, I completely understand why readers want to not read the entire screenplay. I've read some screenplays that were torture. And there are times when you absolutely know early on that the writer can't write. I would just rather the bulk of screenplays be read. I don't mind examples of the exception. But like I said, the larger share should be read.



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  • SuperScribe
    replied
    Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

    Don't plant a halo above my head just yet, KTV.

    But thank you.

    Leave a comment:


  • killertv
    replied
    Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

    @SuperScribe

    Thank you. You seem like the nicest judge ever or a glutton for punishment. Either way, thanks for sharing - I learned something from that. Hope that state's in better economic shape than Cali at least

    Leave a comment:


  • SuperScribe
    replied
    Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

    killertv -

    I was mostly just responding to the idea that it's fair to toss a script after three pages (if it doesn't seem to be doing much), thinking that you'll probably run into a bunch that are much better. And apparently some judges do that kinda thing.

    I won't say anything about my experience reading for SSC, but I will talk about my experience reading for another competition -- one that's completely off the beaten track and is actually state (not California) sponsored.

    1. Yes, I read every page. Even when the scripts in question seemed to be written by someone who was maybe eleven years-old and didn't understand how anyone over the age of about fifteen acted. Or someone who had never read a screenplay before and wrote in past tense, mostly exploring characters' thoughts and feelings, and didn't bother to format dialogue (i.e., the script in question was a 90 page novella). Or someone who thought that random literary allusions in dialogue coupled with incoherent action lines made his/her script brilliant. Or someone who wrote a pretty pedestrian story in a genre newer writers love and seemed to be coasting through familiar scenes at least semi-competently until about sixty pages in when he/she apparently decided to write the last forty pages in about forty minutes, sometimes not even bothering to use punctuation, finish words or properly format dialogue. Or someone who wrote conversation after conversation in which characters talked about what they were doing as they were doing it (no action lines) -- and what they were doing was taking out the trash or eating dinner or watching TV.

    I read every page.

    2. I remember one script I was so-so on absolutely blowing me away at the end. (I didn't give it a strong enough grade to advance it, but in my feedback I did note how cool the ending was.) And another I was ready to advance completely fucking up the last forty or so pages. Another I remember seemed really rushed and unbelievable for about twenty pages and then came together in some very surprising ways. And yet another seemed well written for about five pages, and then showed that the writer didn't understand how people in their thirties act. And I don't mean the way Apatow turns thirty-year-olds into twenty-year-olds. I mean the characters in this script didn't act the way people really act. So, yeah, some scripts were uneven and drastically changed for better or worse after a certain point.

    Most scripts were pretty consistent one way or the other, though. And a few were damned well written... though not really good enough to compete in the professional arena.

    3. I was tempted to close a number of the scripts and not read on. Very tempted. Believe me. There's a point you reach where you wonder if the writer is just fucking with you. And then you remember that some of your entrants ARE eleven years-old. Or that they've never seen a screenplay before. (Even though we were directed to disqualify scripts that weren't formatted even remotely properly, I still read every page.) Or that they enjoy writing while higher than shit and were maybe trying to channel their favorite surrealist filmmakers, albeit unsuccessfully. So my feedback (a requirement for this competition) reflected all of that.

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  • LeadSolo
    replied
    Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

    Oh look, a dead horse!


    *kick*



    And an excessive period just for good measure. Just a dash of snark.






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    Leave a comment:


  • killertv
    replied
    Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

    Originally posted by SuperScribe View Post
    But if we read on, we might be surprised.
    Like on p. 9, when the story really gets going in a way I didn't expect. And now I want to finish it because of the first ten pages.

    I understand what you mean about being easy to dismiss after the first three. But if we're advancing 20 (from a pool of, oh, say a hundred?) the first few pages isn't to find the top 20, just the bottom 20. Maybe bottom 50. Maybe more. Then read more pages as necessary - that makes sense to me. But I never judged. I've just read a lot of scripts that started bad and ended worse.

    SuperScribe, when you judged competitions, did you read every page? If so, did scripts surprise you at the end? If you didn't read everything, why not? Don't want to be snarky, just want to understand judging better.

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  • SuperScribe
    replied
    Re: Confessions of a Contest Judge

    I do understand. I've read for contests, including SSC (no, not this year).

    My point was that it would be easy to dismiss that script because, based on the first few pages, it seems merely competent. I mean, we've seen this situation before; we've seen it done better.

    And if we're looking for the best of the best, well, hey, no reason to read on, right? Odds are -- based simply on those first three pages -- there are at least twenty scripts in the competition that are better, and our job is to advance about that many scripts (let's say).

    But if we read on, we might be surprised.

    Leave a comment:


  • killertv
    replied
    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...

    Leave a comment:


  • killertv
    replied
    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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  • SuperScribe
    replied
    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.)

    Leave a comment:


  • zenplato
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    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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