Posted by: steveonfilm | December 6, 2010

2010 Expo Screenplay Competition Entry Feedback

I got an e-mail (well two actually) from Creative Screenwriting today that I totally didn’t expect. Evidently, the Screenwriting Expo provides feedback on each script you enter, and that information got sent out to the entrants this morning.

Along with feedback, they also sent the scores for each section of judging criteria. I figure now is as good a time to share how the scripts were judged and where I scored.

Here’s how the scoring criteria breaks down:

Score 1: Title, Premise, Opening, Story: up to 30.0 points:

Judge was told: “Give one score of up to 30 points (you may use decimals), covering all of the criteria in this group.” The criteria which comprise this score are:
–Is the title appropriate, and did it catch your eye?
–Did the opening grab your attention?
–Is the premise/concept original and engaging?
–Is the world of the story believable? (time, place, genre)?
–Is the conflict set up effectively in the first 5-10 pages?
–Is the script commercial in a known genre or market?
–Description: is it tight, compelling, vividly written?
–After the opening, did the story keep your attention?
–Are there believable surprises to move the story along?”

Score 2: Characters and Dialogue: Up to 30 points:

Judge was told: “Give one score, up to 30, on your view of these considerations:”
–Vivid, memorable, active protagonist?
–Is protagonist’s goal clear?
–Was it clear what the protagonist stood to lose?
–Did you see protagonist’s internal flaw(s)/complexity?
–Did the script establish protagonist’s “Big Problem”?
–Did the script make you root for the protagonist?
–Character arc: Does protagonist change/solve problem?
–Vivid, memorable, active antagonist?
–Are other characters memorable?
–Is dialogue real, natural, and appropriate to time/place?
–Does each character have a distinct voice?
–Can the characters be cast?”

Score 3: Format, Structure, Second Act, Ending: Up to 30 points:

The criteria are:
–Is the script written in standard Hollywood format?
–Are spelling, punctuation, and grammar correct?
–Does the script have three clear acts?
–Is there a midpoint twist/complication to keep Act II moving?
–Is there a third act lowpoint when all seems lost?
–How satisfying is the ending?

Score 4: Subjective “overall merit” score. Up to 10 points:

Judge was told: “This is your subjective judgment on artistic merit, theme, marketability, or other qualities you think are important. …This subjective score allows you to give extra points to scripts which you think are especially deserving, or alternatively, to somewhat reduce the total score of a script that hit all its technical marks but just wasn’t magnificent overall.”

Judge’s Comments On Strengths:

Judge was told: “Enter at least a phrase, or as much as you want to say, up to 450 characters. “ If none, judge was told to write “See below” or similar words.

Judge’s Comments On “Needs Improvement”:

Judge was told: “As kindly but clearly as possible, say what you think needs improvement. Briefly cover anything you want-–theme, story, plot, dialogue, structure, the opening, the ending, marketability, basic formatting, whatever. If no significant improvements come to mind, it’s OK to write something like “none” or “no major issues.” “

This seems pretty straightforward and transparent. Obviously, all judgements are subjective, but it’s nice to know the criteria that they were following for the scoring.

Here’s how Served Cold was scored:

Score 1: 27.5
Score 2: 28.5
Score 3: 29
Score 4: 8
Total Score: 93

Strengths: “Really good set up for the story. Excellent way to reveal Fisher’s background without it sounding too dry and expositional. Tight, but makes you want to find out what happens next. Terrific structure, great midpoint and act two end. This is a good role that any action actor would want to play.”

Needs Improvement: “No major issues.”

So there you go… I guess that’s what it takes to be a semi-finalist. I’d like to know what else I’d need to do to get those half points up to a full point, but that’s not a huge deal. Hopefully the changes I made in my most recent revision will be enough to get it that extra little bit higher. But all in all, 93 out of 100 isn’t a bad score at all for my first contest.

Here’s how The Collector scored:

Score 1: 27
Score 2: 27
Score 3: 27
Score 4: 6
Total Score: 87

Strengths: “Intriguing story, Ira is an interesting character as is his situation. Fascinating how he ends up where he does, and accepts it. Dialogue works, visuals work, the surprise of the first repeated moment works well.”

Needs Improvement: “Script feels a bit short, as if there is something missing in the development of Ira’s journey.”

So close to having two semi-finalist entries. It’s interesting to see that they thought the “script feels a bit short” and that it feels like “there is something missing.” This is something I’ve heard from a few friends who’ve read it. They said that they enjoyed the story, but felt like there was something missing, something more that needed to happen, but couldn’t put their finger on it.

I think with a bit more work I can bring this script up as well. I’m going to take a look at it again over the new few weeks and tinker with it. See if there is something more I can bring out of it. Ira is a really complicated character, easily the most “angry and frustrated” that I’ve ever written. He’s constantly in fear that he’s going to be a failure as a father, and well aware he’s on the path to be a failure as a husband. Maybe I need to explore this a bit… who knows.

Anyway, hopefully this give anyone else out there who’s thought about entering in a script into a contest some insight onto how they’re judged. I don’t know how close this contest follows others (like Final Draft’s Big Break, or Nicholls), but how they broke it down made a lot of sense to me.

Until next time, keep writing!


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