Yeah, STS is on a roll…

Since the site went live, we’re thrilled to say our reviews have helped multiple writers get their short scripts optioned, as well as facilitating several indie director/writer connections and options-in-the-works.

But… we need your help, in two very important areas:

Give us some damn’ good scripts!

A site is only as great as its content.  So we need good scripts to review.  Lots o’ them.  Tons of them.  Short and feature length.  We wanna drown in (good) scripts like it’s a mega-budget producer’s slush pile. Our mission statement at STS is to find the best, highest quality short (and feature length) scripts for review.  So if you have a gem that’s really ready for prime time (or have someone you want to recommend)the link below for submissions. (Don’t forget to include a URL link to your script!)

http://simplyscripts.com/submit_your_script-sts.html

Give us a few damn’ good writers!

STS requires a ton of readin’ and reviewin’, so we’re gonna need a bit of help.  In addition to script showcasing, STS also features occasional interviews with indie directors and industry related book reviews.  If you feel you’ve got a knack for any of those three writing areas – and want to contribute – send us a sample of your work for consideration using the URL listed above.  No, it’s not paid.  But you’ll get credit for your article and press.  And in this biz, that’s a pretty good thing….

You’ve Finished the Damned Script – Now What?

(Anthony Cawood Primers for a Networked World)

Part 5: Competitions

I decided to enter a few competitions last year with some of my short scripts… And quickly discovered that, as screenwriters, we are spoilt for choice. There’s hundreds of contests out there, with new ones starting every year. So which ones should you be entering, and spending your hard earned money on?

When all was said and done, I collected one 1st place, one Runner’s up, a Third, a Finalist and one Semi-Finalist placing. (In the interest of full disclosure, I also entered five more scripts that got absolutely nowhere. Nada. Zilch!) But I did gain knowledge and experience in the process – and that’s valuable as well.

But, let’s back up for a moment and ask one important question… Exactly why do you want to enter competitions in the first place? For me, it was reasons 3 and 4 from the list below. But different competitions offer different opportunities. It’s important to define your goals at the very start, in order to plan proper strategy. Do you want to:

  1. Get yourself an agent, manager, producer.
  2. Get professional coverage.
  3. Win prizes, such as money/trophies/software/film festival passes, etc.
  4. Add ‘award winning screenwriter’ to your resume.
  5. A mix of various aspects of the above.

Let’s consider these motives, one by one.

1) Obtaining an Agent, Manager or Producer

There are only a handful of screenplay contests that will consistently get you this level of attention – and then only if you place semi finalist or finalist. These are the big players in the game: The Academy Nicholl Fellowship, Page Awards, Scriptapalooza, BlueCat, and a handful of others (that I have less direct experience with.)

But remember – if you’re angling for these big fish – these contests attract thousands of entries. Competition will certainly be fierce!

Page has been around for over 10 years and has a $25,000 First Prize. In 2014, it was won by Matias Caruso, whose shorts have been showcased here on Moviepoet, SS, and in STS.

Nicholl has been around even longer – thirty years and receives over 7000 entries annually. Up to five winners can receive $35,000 fellowships.

Scriptapalooza has been in the game over 17 years, receiving over 4000 entries annually. One major plus: the judges are all agents, managers or producers and the first prize is $10,000.

BlueCat has been around since 1998, attracting over 4000 entries per year. This one boasts a $15,000 grand prize (and $10,000 for the winning short too!)

Not to mention other high profile comps, like Final Draft’s Big Break, Script Pipeline, Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition, etc. Score big with one of these, and your feature, short or TV pilot could connect with the ‘right’ people.

2) Get coverage

You can get coverage from a variety of sources – from the free opinion of people right here on the SS boards, to shelling out hundreds of dollars for professional readers (of varying quality.) You can also get it as a result of entering some screenplay contests – which is sometimes packaged as part of the entry fee. Bluecat does that. So does ReelWriters. So when you are contemplating a competition, research if they do a coverage package – and determine if that’s useful for you.

3) Win something

Prizes range all over the map: nice trophies. Free software, discounted services… all the way up to some pretty substantial monetary prizes. Check out what the competition you’re considering offers – and if it’s something valuable to you. IE: is it worth spending $30 to enter a competition for a copy of Final Draft 9, if you bought a copy recently? Probably not – if that’s all that a win will mean.

4) Award winning screenwriter bragging rights

Does this matter? Well, if it’s Page, Nicholl, etc – then yes, it probably does. As for the others… Well, here’s how I think about it personally. When trying to persuade producers/directors to read your scripts, I think ‘award winning’ may help get your script read. (And maybe even read first.) It may also be something a producer might be able to use while marketing your work. I’ve never heard anyone say it’s a bad thing. Though you have to balance that against the cost of multiple entry fees!

5) All the above (or any combination)

Hey – wouldn’t it be grand to win a competition and really score? Get the prizes, the coverage, the bragging rights – and have your work seen and produced? Well, one can definitely dream. And if you back it up with hard work… those dreams do sometimes come close enough to reach…!

Researching Competitions and Lists

Okay – so you’ve decided competitions are worth a try. But if you’re not ready to tackle Nicholl, where can learn about the smaller fry? Here are a few handy links that I’ve used in my searches – complete with details on submission requirements, deadlines, etc…

1) Movie Byteshttp://www.moviebytes.com/

2) InkTiphttp://inktip.com/competition_directory.php

3) FilmFreeway (Film Festivals too) https://filmfreeway.com/

4) Without A Box – (Film Festivals too)https://www.withoutabox.com/

* It’s worth pointing out that some Film Festivals – like Austin, Nashville, etc – have screenwriting comps within their festivals. Getting into the finals of these often includes free passes for the festival as well.

Finally, let’s end with a few tips – garnered both from my own experience and common sense:

1) Thoroughly research any competition you are thinking of entering. How long has it been established, who runs it? Are there any complaints online? If you have serious doubts… spend your money elsewhere.

2) Does it have a genre bias and does any bias fit with your script(s)? If so, use this to your advantage.

3) Does it offer different categories for scripts, e.g. Drama, Horror, Comedy? In general, the more categories the better. That means that your horror opus won’t be competing against indie dramedies. (Especially good if you get a reader whose favorite film is Juno!

4) Do all scripts have to have a certain theme? I found an Australian comp where all the films had to involve dogs!

5) What can you afford? Competition entries can mount up fast. Always spend wisely. Look for discounts via sites like FilmFreeway and MovieBytes. And take advance of early entry discounts, too.

6) Do you want your script tied up? Most competitions have “no option” entry requirements. If your script’s been optioned/sold, that disqualifies it from competition. Now, that’s no problem if you’ve just landed a $10K option. But what if someone wants to option it for free, or $1? Remember, too, that many competitions have very long entry windows. Your script could be ‘considered’ for months.

7) Read the rules carefully. Make sure you understand all the requirements, and any rights you’re potentially signing away. (For instance, winning the Disney Fellowship or entering the Amazon Studio competition requires certain compromises.)

8) This should go without saying, but make sure you send in the best version of your script possible. And I don’t just mean the strongest story. I mean proofread the script within an inch of it’s life. Why spoil your chances – and waste your money – with a poorly formatted script, strewn with typos and littered with grammatical errors?

9) Send a properly formatted script in PDF format. Word docs and other files are a strict no-no.

10) Don’t forget to take your name and address details off the script title sheet if the competition asks for it (Page does, for instance).

So what now? Get out there and research! Pick your competitions wisely. Polish your script until it shines. Then submit…. And let it go. It’s in the hands of the judges now….

About Anthony: I’m an award winning screenwriter from the UK with over 15 scripts produced, optioned and/or purchased. Outside of my screenwriting career, I’m also a published short story writer and movie reviewer. Links to my films and details of my scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk.

What Bad SF Can Teach Us About Writing Screenplay Description

You wanna write screenplays?  Seriously?  Hopefully for a living?  Well, one thing you’ve got to do is perfect your art. Write. Rewrite.  And keep plugging away… nonstop. Keep polishing your craft until it shines!

…and be open to lessons learned from those who’ve been in the trenches, and blazed the same trail that you seek.  STS is happy to be reposting a series of articles from ChipStreet.  Folks, this is a terrific website – we recommend that you check it out in more depth!  (Original article available here: http://chipstreet.com/2011/06/24/what-bad-science-fiction-can-teach-us-about-writing-screenplay-description/)

About Chip: Chip Street is an IMDB credited indie screenwriter, director, and art director. His short films have screened at festivals, and his feature screenplays have been optioned and sold. He is a screenplay analyst, competition finalist, screenplay judge for a major industry competition, screener for an International film festival, founder of Write Club Screenplay Challenge, and a respected blogger on the art and business of screenwriting. He’s been published or cited by The BlueCat Competition Newsletter, Script Magazine, JohnAugust.com, Bleeding Cool, NoFilmSchool, ScriptTips and IndieWire.com.

*******

What bad science fiction can teach us about writing screenplay description

Originally posted on June 24, 2011 by Chip Street

Why too much detail destroys screenplay description – and pisses readers off

I just finished slogging my way through another script as a judge for a screenplay competition.

Yes, slogging. It was painful. It was boring. Frankly, I couldn’t finish it. I gave it a “pass”.

Because the writer gave me too much description.

Exactly how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop

The screenwriter told us just how many steps a character took to cross a room (11), whether the couch was on the right or the left of the doorway (left), how many seconds a dog barked (5), and precisely how much space is between the lights in an alleyway (30 meters). I learned that the kitchen table is rectangular, and how big it is (approximately 33 inches by 60 inches).

I wanted to shoot myself in the head. For the record, this is not how you want to make your reader feel.

Perhaps because this was a sci-fi script, the writer fell victim to the classic hyperspecificity of Golden Age authors like Arthur Clarke (whose penchant for detailing the precise number of rivets in a spaceship might make for good geekery, but doesn’t make for good Literature [opinion] or screenwriting [fact]).

But consider this: even between the covers of a sci-fi bestseller, there’s such a thing as too many words. Too much specific description. Too much time spent on details that are not story critical, and that actually disrupt the rhythm and pacing of the read.

The Larry Niven reference

Once, many years ago, I had brunch with acclaimed sci-fi writer Larry Niven, and he shared a story about the writing of the bestseller Ringworld. He said that he spent days writing about a detailed and lavish banquet. Every exotic food, roasted creature, colorful fruit, bizarre drink, strange and alien utensil. He loved it, and was so proud of it.

Then he turned it over to his sometime writing partner Jerry Pournelle for some honest feedback. Jerry, he said, was a ruthless editor. Jerry reduced the scene down to two words:

 They ate.

Larry laughed. He said Jerry was right. He didn’t need it. He had to kill his baby.

But I see the movie in my head

I know, I know. The writer saw the movie in her head and needed to share it. Every moment was crystal, the dramatic void of silence as the protagonist thoughtfully crossed the room was critical to pacing and mood. I get that.

I get why the lights were 30 meters apart, I do … because that vision of a black alleyway punctuated with pools of yellow light was mysterious.

So say that. In that minimalist syllable-counting haiku that is (or should be) screenwriting. In the way that makes every word count. In a way that’s artful. In a way that doesn’t suck the life out of it, and devolve into a soul-less mechanical blueprint for the set designer.

In a way that doesn’t make the reader (and that’s your audience) roll his eyes and shut your script on page four after you’ve pulled him out of the story because you can’t get to the fucking point.

And no, it won’t be easy. That’s why not just anyone can do this. As I said in Writing Screenplay Description with Personal Style:

… it’s a tricky balance… Style (with a capital “S”) can’t supersede the screenwriting tenet of direct simplicity. It’s an interesting challenge, to introduce enough of your Style to create a personal voice, while avoiding the hyper-specificity of extraneous detail that slows down the real-time pace, and readers hate.

It’s not your job

Here’s what you need to know, young newbie. It’s not your job to design the sets. It’s not your job to costume the talent, or do their hair.

It’s not your job to choose camera angles, or block the action.

It’s not your job to direct.

Yes, sometimes, it is story critical to drop in a hyper-specific detail like “the couch was on the left”. If you’re writing Memento, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, or Run, Lola, Run, those details may resurface, and make themselves important to the story.

But as a reader, let me say this: If you specify that the couch is on the left, or that he takes 11 steps across the room, or the dog barks for 5 seconds, those details damn well better be story points. ‘Cuz I’m going to be waiting for them to justify themselves in some important way.

And they better.

But I like to write all that description

I got the feeling, reading this painful script, that maybe what the writer really wanted to do was write a sci-fi novel.

Then write a novel. Seriously. Maybe that’s what you excel at … maybe that’s what really stokes your creative embers. Maybe sorting out and displaying all those fabulous details, all that texture, is the language of your art. And good for you, dammit. Go forth and do it. Between the covers of a book.

But remember Larry’s story … remember that even there, less can indeed be more.

BY THE WAY: I am compelled to assure you, dear reader, that I did not actually lift any lines verbatim from the script. I paraphrased, to create a representative example. No inappropriate plagiarism to see here. Move along.

 

 

 

 

The Final Piece

A lonely old woman loves nothing more than completing her jigsaw puzzles.  But when a mysterious box arrives on her doorstep one night, her life is about to take a horrifying turn.

The “final piece” referred to in the title of this chilling screenplay is a simple jigsaw puzzle piece. Or so we think, as this unsettling tale unfolds…

The creepiness starts early as we meet 67-year-old Margot who lives by herself in a “lonely domicile that sits at the edge of a thick forest.” It’s the dead of night, and gusts of wind sway the trees in the dark woods outside her window.

An eerie, foreboding setting; yet inside the house all seems cheery. Margot sits in her kitchen finishing her latest jigsaw puzzle: a charming and colorful French garden scene. She pops in the final piece and sighs, “So easy. Where’s the challenge?”

Where, indeed?

And as she puts the dissembled puzzle away, we begin to understand the old woman’s disappointment — her cabinet is filled with dozens and dozens of puzzles. Remnants of a passion gone on too long. Margot needs something – some excitement – to take its place.

All she can do is wait. But not very long.

Later – as she prepares for bed – Margot hears a thump downstairs. She creeps down, turns on the light… to find a mysterious package near her front door. No return address. No writing at all. She opens it: it’s a jigsaw puzzle. A temptation she can’t resist; Margot starts on it immediately.

But as puzzle pieces fall into place, she sees a strange scene take shape. It’s her kitchen. All the familiar things are there. She adds more pieces to the puzzle, and curiosity turns to terror. In the puzzle, she sees herself at the table. She’s being watched – in some eerie way.

The last two pieces reveal the most shocking detail of all – the silhouette of a man in the window behind her, holding an axe. She snaps around just in time to see a glimpse of something. But it fades away into the shadows before Margot can get a better view.

Which is when the lights go out.

Blinded by darkness, Margot hears creaking footsteps on the porch. The front door opens. Followed by heavy breathing.

So what does the title really refer to? Perhaps a puzzle of a different sort. Has Margot put together her last picture? Or found a challenge truly worth her while?

Pages: 4

Budget: Low. A few rooms in a modest house. Two actors. And lots of creepiness. Perfect for a filmmaker with a limited budget.

About the Writer: Living in CA, Ryan Lee can be contacted via ryanlee1800 AT yahoo. His IMDB credits can be viewed here.

About the Guest Reviewer: Helen Magellan (a pseudonym) is a successful screenwriter with several produced short scripts under her belt.

READ THE SCRIPT HERE – AND DON’T FORGET TO COMMENT!!

FOR YET MORE SCRIPTS AVAILABLE FOR PRODUCTION:

PLEASE SEARCH SIMPLYSCRIPTS.COM 

OR THE BLOG VERSION OF STS HERE.

All screenplays are copyrighted to their respective authors. All rights reserved. The screenplays may not be used without the expressed written permission of the author.

Cow Boy

An isolated rancher is surprised when a small boy wanders on to his property all alone.

Show it – don’t say it.

Screenwriters who have been in the biz for any length of time know this phrase.  As originally meant, it’s a rule of thumb regarding exposition, and a protection against “talking heads”.  Never have characters sit and explain something, if you can do it visually.  It’s far more dynamic. Keeps your audience’s attention.

But one can take the meaning further, into the realm of dialogue.  Don’t get us wrong: writing dialogue’s a finely honed skill.  But creating a tale told almost completely in pictures? That’s a whole ‘nother range of impressive.

David T. Harwood’s Cow Boy does just that.  Consisting of only two characters – and dialogue only on one side.

The speaking role belongs to the never-named Rancher: a grizzled cowpoke in his seventies.  He lives alone in the country, watching continually over his herd.  But things have gotten strange these days.  Making his rounds in the morning, he finds one of his cows lying gutted in the snow… and human footprints leading away.

The next morning, a visitor arrives on his doorstep.  It’s a young, wild-eyed boy – with a motorcycle helmet on his head.  The kid looks feral and famished, so the Rancher lets him in.  He feeds the child, and asks questions.  But the boy refuses to speak.  Over the next several days, The Rancher attempts again to glean information from his guest.  Where did the Boy come from? Where’s his family?  How has he survived on his own?  Still nothing.  But the Rancher’s used to solitude; the Boy’s company’s a welcome change.  The child will talk when he’s ready. But when? And what will be revealed?

A richly detailed script, readings of Cow Boy evoke visions of a desolate countryside – in all its beauty and isolation.  One can imagine what it would look like on the screen.  And the two roles?  Limited to minimal dialogue, the Boy and the Rancher characters thrive on physical acting. Emotion via body language.  In other words, perfect roles for talented actors, ready to give it all they’ve got.

About the writer: Want to know more about writer David Harwood?  Mosey on over to his blog at davidtharwood.com, or via Twitter and Facebook at FB: davidtharwood, Twitter @davidtharwood

Pages: 6

Budget: You’ll need access to a mid-western countryside, and a few farm animals.  That – and two wonderfully skilled actors!

READ THE SCRIPT HERE – AND DON’T FORGET TO COMMENT!!

FOR YET MORE SCRIPTS AVAILABLE FOR PRODUCTION:

PLEASE SEARCH SIMPLYSCRIPTS.COM

OR THE BLOG VERSION OF STS HERE.

All screenplays are copyrighted to their respective authors. All rights reserved. The screenplays may not be used without the expressed written permission of the author.

 

 

North Star

 A rancher on a secluded mountain ranch makes life-changing sacrifices to take care of his ailing wife.

Films that explore devastating illnesses fall in and out of favor… and aren’t to every moviegoer’s taste. Are they “entertaining”? No. But best of them (for instance, Still Alice or The Theory of Everything) strike to the heart of what makes drama great. Exposing what it means to be human, and vulnerable. To have one’s life – or a loved one’s – altered by a twist of fate. Stories that deal with such topics may never draw the popcorn crowd, but their impact will persevere – long after the latest blockbuster spectacle fades away.

In his poignant short North Star, writer P.J. Palmer shines a narrative light on a stroke victim’s family. Specifically, on the difficult decisions required of a loving husband… and caregiver.

Steve and his wife Cheryl (50s) live on a secluded mountain ranch. At first glance, Steve’s daily routine seems mundane. He rises before dawn, shaves, dresses – and patters about their bedroom quietly so as not to wake Cheryl. In the kitchen, he fires up the coffee and lights the stove. Then, accompanied by two rambunctious dogs, Steve heads outside to do chores.

Once back, Steve returns to the bedroom and opens the curtains to wake his wife.

…but with daylight come realities. For Cheryl is thin and frail – and completely dependent on Steve for her needs.   Bathing, dressing, feeding. Everything. But through his actions, Steve’s dedication to his wife is clear. His love: unconditional.

The situation’s heart-wrenching… and ultimately unsustainable. As their daughter Erin laments: “We all wish it were different. Just gonna do what we have to, to make it through.” But there are some hard decisions ahead – even for the most devoted family.

There’s no sugarcoating North Star’s theme, but its psalm to humanity rings true throughout. Vivid descriptions, and touching moments – contrasted with harsh reality. Are you a drama director in search of a substantial story that resonates? Be assured, you’ve got one here.

About the Writer: P.J. Palmer has worked on 20+ short films, web series, music videos, documentary projects and commercials as a director, producer and/or writer. He began his career at Warner Brothers Studio working on the set of the TV series ‘ER’. Palmer is now alumni to the 2013 Edinburgh Film Festival Talent Lab. He was also an artist in residence with 2014 Steinbeck Festival where he premiered his documentary: ‘GRAPES OF WRATH’ (Director / Producer) starring James Franco and Lois Smith. That same year Palmer won the CLIO for best commercial for producing Srixon’s ‘JOURNEY TO BETTER’ broadcast campaign. Palmer’s comedy pilot project ‘SLACKLY MANOR’ (Producer) won the 2013 LA Comedy Script Festival. Recently, Palmer guided the ground-breaking, dramatic web series ‘ANYONE BUT ME’ (Series Producer) through three seasons in NYC to dozens of top industry awards including Best Web Series and Best Drama. His short film “GOOD LUCK” (Director) was picked up for distribution by Fox Digital Studios and accepted into several festivals. Another short film of his, ‘MEMBERS ONLY’ (director) is out to festivals. Previously, in making his first documentary, Palmer was on the ground during the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a disaster relief volunteer while filming the documentary ‘AMERICAN RED CROSS: KATRINA RELIEF’ (Co-Director / Producer). Palmer is now in production directing the feature length documentary ‘FOR ED RICKETTS’, exploring the lasting influences of John Steinbeck, Joseph Campbell and Ed Ricketts, set to debut in the spring of 2016. Currently, Palmer is in active development on the Scottish feature script ‘PULL NO PUNCHES’ as his narrative feature directorial debut. IMDB: http://www.imdb.me/pjpalmer Portfolio: http://www.twenty2films.com

Pages: 11

Budget: Relatively low. Only four actors, all of whom have meaty roles. Steve, Cheryl and Eric (and neighbor rancher Mike.) A couple of dogs and a cat are optional. A horse is a necessity – but no riding required.

About the Reviewer: California über reader/reviewer KP Mackie is working hard on her animated feature. She can be reached at kpmackk “AT” gmail.

READ THE SCRIPT HERE – AND DON’T FORGET TO COMMENT!!

FOR YET MORE SCRIPTS AVAILABLE FOR PRODUCTION:

PLEASE SEARCH SIMPLYSCRIPTS.COM 

OR THE BLOG VERSION OF STS HERE.

All screenplays are copyrighted to their respective authors. All rights reserved.

The screenplays may not be used without the expressed written permission of the author.

 

 

 

 

 

Glitch

A desperate wife resorts to extreme measures to ensure her husband gets the lifesaving operation he needs. 

Don’t let the Polly Annas lie to you.  Money, it’s darned near everything.  Especially when you don’t have it. And need it: desperately.  Hollow politician promises aside, that’s a universal fact of life. And just as likely to be true in the future as today.

Take Amber and George’s situation, for instance: living in squalor in a cyberpunk world.  In need of medical assistance.  You see, George needs his appendix removed. Preferably yesterday.  But they can’t afford the operation.  Even the dirty, black market kind.  Which leaves do-it-yourself as the remaining option. Too bad neither of them has surgical training.

Fortunately, there are walk-through education modules you can buy.  Which is about as good as it’s gonna get for impoverished folks like these two.  So Amber plunks a broken down virtual reality gaming set on her head, and rolls plastic across the kitchen table.  A quick injection sends George to la-la land.  Time for that crucial first incision.

Blood oozes. The clock ticks down.  Amber stumbles through the steps as best she can. And it looks like all’s going (relatively) well.  But is it truly ever wise to attempt surgery with last year’s Atari tech?  Not to mention an expired warrantee?

Written by screenplay veteran Anthony Cawood, Glitch is what SF should be.  Gritty, dark and satiric. And electrifyingly entertaining.

About the writer: I’m an award winning screenwriter from the UK with over 15 scripts produced, optioned and/or purchased. Outside of my screenwriting career, I’m also a published short story writer and movie reviewer. Links to my films and details of my scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk.

Pages: 14

Budget: Pretty  low.  Two actors. And alley and a dirty room.  Oh – and some tripped out Nintendo gear.

READ THE SCRIPT HERE – AND DON’T FORGET TO COMMENT!!

FOR YET MORE SCRIPTS AVAILABLE FOR PRODUCTION:

PLEASE SEARCH SIMPLYSCRIPTS.COM 

OR THE BLOG VERSION OF STS HERE.

All screenplays are copyrighted to their respective authors. All rights reserved.

The screenplays may not be used without the expressed written permission of the author.