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Friday, August 7, 2009

Announcing Quarterfinalists we're fixin to announce who did and did not advance in the Silver Screenwriting Competition this weekend. Some entrants have actually already received word. Notifications will continue through tomorrow.

This year we did something different - we gave a little bit (and I emphasize a little bit) of feedback so that entrants would have some sense of why they did (or didn't) advance in the competition. We have already received our first I HATE YOU email response from someone who didn't advance. Ahhhhh. I love being on the receiving end of bitter disappointment.

It has been a very long past couple of months, with judging quietly going on in the background of everything else. I did not judge this round; we had about four judges working day and night to weed out the first round, which was massive. I wanted the quarterfinalists to represent about 10% of the total entrants. The finalists will be the top 12 - 15% of the quarterfinalists and then we'll have the grand prize winner, 2nd and 3rd places.

Starting now, I am judging, along with Margaux Froley and Andrew Zinnes. We will be finding the finalists within the quarterfinalists and then finding the winner in that pile. It's fun for me to scan the lists of those moving up in the competition, looking for clients and scripts I am familiar with. I haven't seen any that I know personally yet, to be honest. What we did last year when we were in final judging rounds is if we knew a writer, we'd pass the script to someone else so we could judge as objectively as possible. Believe me, you do NOT want to know the writer when you're judging. You so badly want a friend to do well have to judge honestly as well. So you get out of the situation fast and swap scripts.

How did the judges decide who was moving onward and upward and who was not? The usual list of criteria: formatting issues (Wavers, there were entrants who'd literally never before seen a script) originality, voice, character and primarily, the title of my upcoming book: JUST F*NG ENTERTAIN ME. You know how I feel about that. If we're not entertained and fast, you're not advancing. Because this is not about that time you lost your first pet, this is a movie script that is, in theory, a piece of entertainment. So the very first round of judging, which is the most massive, time-consuming one, is one in which we find out who can fundamentally write a fairly good script and who needs to go back to the drawing board.*

*before that pisses you off, go to the section below, about subjectivity

The next round of judging will tighten the noose quite a bit as we look for writers who are not just in the general realm of pretty good execution or a pretty original idea but writers who nailed the execution, theme, originality, premise, character and dialogue. The qualities we are looking for in the very top spots are writers who have a legitimate shot at breaking in, getting repped and maybe even making a sale. Now, I know the spec market is tough right now, so whoever the winner is probably can't plan on defying those odds, but we want our winner to be on par with other repped writers whose work is going out on the marketplace.

I haven't said much about the judging and administrative activities that have been going on with the Silver Screenwriting Competition this year because I know that among the I HATE YOU people, my every word will be cross-examined. I had a conversation with one of my judges the other day about a script he was unsure of. He laughed and remarked how ironic it is that he can see how hard I work to make sure every entrant gets his or her due but it won't matter because there will be the sour grape-types anyway, who handle rejection by FLIPPING OUT and complaining that there was a grammatical error in their notes therefore how on earth can we judge their script??

I had a writer - long story - absolutely flip out and lose her mind because when her script was pitched on her behalf, she got no read requests. She went into full on stalking, raving, threatening mode that lasted for more than two weeks. After I recovered from being absolutely dumbfounded, I gave her some unsolicited advice: You better chill or you'll never work in this town. Ever.

Rejection is part of life, Wavers. And it is a huge part of the life of a writer. Judges strive to be objective but of course subjectivity is always present. What do I always say? Until they invent the Reader 9000, humans are reading your scripts. Of course, maybe one day they'll invent the Audience 9000 and it won't matter who watches your movie or who cares about it. For now, we have humans reading and judging your scripts, we have human executives making decisions about it and we have subjective human beings either slapping down $14 to watch your movie or walking away. Rejection hurts. Get used to it or go make home movies and show them to your friends in the basement. If you want to work in this business, you have to please the majority of people the majority of the time. And that's not possible. And it's crazy-making.

If you did not advance in the SSC this year, don't take it personally and don't let it get you down. Keep believing in your writing and in your script. In fact, I once read a line of a dialogue in a script that really stayed with me: The mettle of a cowboy is not how many times he gets knocked off the horse, but how fast he gets back up again. If you find that you didn't advance and your sentiment is RAGE and a surety that you were CHEATED, you may want to take a look at the man in the mirror and ask if writing is really the path for you. If you feel disappointed and really let down for awhile - well, that is pretty damn normal. God knows I've been there. But here's the mettle of a true shrug it off, you decide that you are a good writer who can do better next time, you pack up your laptop and go to a cafe and you sit your ass down and you get back to work on some writing.

That is all. Now get back to work.

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Anonymous said...

I posted my Silver Screenwriting Competition results on my blog.

They are what they are.



Patrick O'Riley said...

I was curious as to how many entrants there were in the Silver Screenwriting Competition this year. I wondered if you had an estimate?