Friday, July 09, 2010

Fleecing the Wannabes

I’ve talked about this before, but over the 4th of July weekend it blew up in a very interesting way.

Someone who reads as a judge for a well-known contest posted a blog about how she whittled down the pile of scripts she had to read, by quickly tossing those who were written by obvious neophytes.

What would cast one in the neophyte pile?

Incorrectly formatted Title Page.
Address from somewhere other than Mecca.
Script setting somewhere other than Mecca or environs.
Bad dialog.

The poor overworked dear would give the neophyte a few pages to grab her lofty attention, but she could tell if someone could write by page three. Recognize a good writer by page ten. Anything else, oblivion.
Allow me to digress --

I’ve heard that I can tell if a person can write in one, two or three pages before from self-proclaimed screenwriting experts and let me just say, Bullshit.

End of digression.
Someone on the Done Deal Forum tumbled to the blog and the contest and posted a link, and we’re off to the races. Link to the discussion at Done Deal. And here

The conversation flashed over to MovieBytes and Zoetrope.

The blogger in question posted a retraction and apologized for being “snarky,” but insisted her method was standard in the Industry. Anyone who didn’t agree was either filled with hate or (surprise) a neophyte.

And so it went from those outraged to those in the well-if-that’s-the-way-it-works, that’s-the-way-it-works camp.

I am nobody’s expert.


Unless the contest rules state scripts may be eliminated after reading the first ten pages, someone needs to read the script.

If the contest rules state scripts entered will be read by judges, someone needs to read the script. To take the entry fee and not read the script is fraud.

If you reject a script based on the title page, the writer’s address or story setting, you’re a jackass.

If you then send out into the blogsphere that’s what you did, you’re an idiot.

Support for this blogger was in the nature of that’s how real producers do it. They don’t read an entire script if they think you suck by page three.

Again, nobody’s expert.

I’ve won a few screenwriting contests, been invited to Mecca for meetings, developed a list of producers who will read my new work based on what they’ve already read of mine, but I haven’t crossed the big finish line yet. I am stuck in that particular Hell of Close.

Real producers pay someone to read scripts and write coverage to promote pass or consider, and you better believe those guys read the entire script whether they like it or not.

If the script gets a consider, the producer reads it. Now, they may read only the dialog. I’ve had that happen and it made me want to put my hands around their throat, but so be it. Move on.

I entered the contest in question in 2009. The report I received was grid scoring and a few comments. The comment area was filled with misspellings. I had read a blog post by the purveyor of the contest about how typos absolutely drove her bananas, so I figured, dipshit, and moved on.

And the point, friends and neighbors . . .

Screenwriting is the modern gold rush. Screenwriters are the new miners slogging through the dirt work with hope of a rich find. As with the original gold rush, the people who made the most money, the reliable money, were the people who sold the miners food, levis, gold pans and tents. For every miner who went broke, there was a fat storekeep enjoying the good life.

We've replaced gold pans and levis with books, software, classes, coverage, forums, fee-based advice, dvds.

Is there good and helpful advice out there? Yes.

Are there reputable contests? Yes.

Are there rats in the woodpile? You better believe it.

It is now and has always been easier to fleece the workers than do the work.

So, pay attention.

Don’t spend money like a drunken miner.

Keep working.


  1. I'm astounded/horrified/furious about this. Guess it's a good thing I have a 9-to-5 job that I enjoy, doing which I make a contribution to society. If I had tried writing, I would have been blackballed because I have no tolerance for bullshit or fraud. And, yes, taking your money and not reading the script as contracted, is fraud.

    When I read a novel, I always give it 100 pages before giving up on it--a third of the way through an average sized book. 10 pages? ridiculous! Just the dialog? Absurd. How the hell would you know what's going on, among other questions.

    Never thought of Los Angeles in quite that way, maybe because I live in the San Fernando Valley 25 miles from downtown.

    Sticks in my craw: Incorrectly formatted Title Page? Who gives a tinker's damn?

  2. Petty people wielding a small amount of power, they perceive themselves giants.

    Glad I gave up on that contest last year.


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