Posted by: steveonfilm | May 10, 2011

2011 AAA Screenplay Contest Semi-Finalist

After Carson reviewed my screenplay “Served Cold” over on ScriptShadow, I took all the notes that he gave, a bunch of notes that people in the comments section gave, and put them into a document for review. I sifted through things that I thought would work and looked at bigger ticket items that pointed to problems with my writing in general. I put together a new draft that addressed many of the concerns brought up and incorporated some suggestions on how to do things better. I figured I’d submit it to the AAA Screenplay Contest that Creative Screenwriting sponsors and hoped for the best. After all… I had a coupon.

This morning I received notification that I was a semi-finalist. It was pretty cool to see my name again on a results page. They’ll announce winners later this month, but I’m not getting my hopes up. I’m just happy enough that I got this far. And hey, just by being a semi-finalist I get a year’s subscription to Creative Screenwriting. So that’s a plus.

I wanted to reiterate something that I mentioned back when the Cyberspace Open results were announced… not doing well in a 5 page script contest doesn’t mean you can’t write. I didn’t get past round one this year in the Cyberspace Open, but a full length screenplay I wrote is as a semi-finalist in a much more “prestigious” contest. Doing well in each takes a completely separate set of skills.

So that’s about it… back to working on “The Prey.” I’m on beats 13 and 14 right now of Act 2B. So there’s a good chance I’ll wrap that up tonight. If I can manage that there there’s a good shot I’ll have a “words on paper” draft done by the end of the month.

Until next time, keep writing!

[Update: I got a little writing done tonight, but I’m just pooped from work. I’ve been going from 8 this morning until about 9:30 tonight. I managed to wrap up beat 13 of Act Two B, but I’ll need to finish beat 14 tomorrow. I’m just too tired to keep writing.]


  1. That’s bitchin’, man. I love the contests…it’s so hard to get a real barometer otherwise.

    I got coverage very early in the process on my current script, and I’m about to dive into a difficult rewrite. It’s a little frightening, but thrilling…there are a couple of major changes I never thought I’d see.

    I did eventually get my round two CS Open results and I missed the top ten by just a couple of points. I feel like I’m on the cusp of something here. Hopefully, you are too.

    • Thanks buddy!

      Bummer on missing the finals of round two. Tough to get that close and then not have it happen.

      If you ever need a set of eyes on your script, let me know. I can’t really offer up that much “advice,” but I can offer thoughts and proof read like a mother fucker!

      I’d like to think I’m on the cusp of something… but back in reality I’m really making shit happen right now at work, so as much as it pains me to say, my writing is taking second fiddle right now. A loud fiddle, but a second one at that.

      Best of luck to you man!

  2. Congrats, Steve! Rock on!!

    • Hey, thanks buddy!

      When do you start over at AFI?

  3. Congratulations Steve! Do you have Served Cold posted anywhere? I’d like to read it.

    • Hey Bob… I’ve got a tab for it up at the top. You’ll find the script’s logline as well as a link to the PDF.

  4. Question: they note in the announcement email that the all semi finalists will receive some set of notes, even if they didn’t purchase the full coverage package. Did you receive any feedback yet?

    • EVERY person who “provides an email address on the cover page of his or her script receives his or her score and brief comments from the judge on the strengths of the script and where the script needs improvement.”

      I didn’t get any feedback yet, but that’s not surprising. It took a few weeks until I got the same type of feedback from the Screenwriting Expo’s contest which did something similar.

  5. All righty then. The waiting game is on….

    • I’ve got a post with my feedback from the Screenwriting Expo’s contest if you want to get an idea of the type of feedback to expect.

      • Just read it. Very cool. Best of luck.

        • Thanks. I think the feedback is nice. It’s cool to get a sentence or two on what we need to work on. Not just some numbers on a sheet alone. Some people don’t think it’s enough “feedback.” My response is always, “That’s what coverage services are for, this is a contest. You want more, pay for it.” Just my two cents.

          • Just got my feedback from my scripts this morning. Brief, but actually pretty helpful, relevant, and spot-on, I think. Given my scores, I’m not optimistic about either script breaking into finals. Guess we’ll see shortly. Thanks again for the info.

            • Yeah, my feedback was pretty good too. I guess they rejudged the semi-final scripts, so regardless of your initial score a new set of eyes went over them. Best of luck man.

      • I have to say, the one thing in there that DID surprise me was the scoring rubrics based on ‘marketability’ and/or sellability. I had always thought the point of these contests was to sort of look at a script in a ‘vacuum,’ and assess it purely on its merit as dramatic literature. I am, obviously, mistaken. I doubt that I’ll be getting high marks in that area, that’s for sure.

        • “I had always thought the point of these contests was to sort of look at a script in a ‘vacuum,’ and assess it purely on its merit as dramatic literature.”

          It’s going to vary by contest.

          The Nichols Fellowship contest, which is arguably the most important and only contest that matters, takes a more traditional approach in that regard.

          However, many other contest look at scripts with a real world focus. They want to help launch new writers with products they can sell off the bat. How serious they actually are with that “mission statement” is going to vary by contest.

          Reality is you’re going to have a better chance selling a well written script about rival high school superheroes in love than an epic 13th century period piece about a cobbler. It doesn’t mean that one is better than the other, but the market is the market, no matter what we might think of it.

  6. This is Bill Donovan, publisher of Creative Screenwriting Magazine and currently the manager of our contests.

    Steve, regarding your script, I haven’t looked at the AAA contest semifinal judging (which, as of this writing is complete but for the last few scripts), but you had a high first-round score (in the top 25), so possibly you do have reason to get your hopes up. Please don’t shoot me if the semifinal judging comes out otherwise, but being in the top 2.5% in a contest is an accomplishment.

    Thank you all for your comments. I was scouring the web and message boards looking for negative comments, actually, because as much as they hurt, they help us improve.

    So it is nice to hear a positive remark now and then.

    Regarding the feedback: this is the second time we have given brief feedback to each contestant whose email address we had. And it is the second time that most of those who received positive feedback were happy with us, and small portion of few of those who received mostly negative feedback wrote us to argue vehemently.

    Regarding marketability as a criterion: first, I would beg anyone reading this to understand that it is just one consideration. Second, I have the impression from the comments I see from our judges that they and I share the view that marketability is a function of a story being well-written, vivid, and original. We don’t mean “marketable” to equate with “studio” or “tentpole.” We mean, and I have told judges, that marketable means it is a possibility in at least one of many markets.

    • WOW, Bill, I really appreciate you stopping by to leave a comment on the blog. Thanks for your input on the areas of feedback and, specifically, marketability. If you don’t mind, I’d like to post some of your comment up as a post on the main page of the blog. I get e-mails from people asking what I think about the “marketability” thing, and I think this will help clarify that significantly.

      On the flip side, sorry you got some tough e-mails. People are passionate about their art. And sometimes they don’t take well to people who have a different perspective. I’m sure you know all about that that, inside and out.

      Creative Screenwriting is a name I trust, and I know I’m not alone in that regard. I’m glad you’re taking the good and the bad you get sent and turning into items that will help make the contest better. That’s a really solid thing to hear.

  7. […] Bill Donovan, publisher of Creative Screenwriting Magazine and currently the manager of their contests was kind enough to stop by and make a nice comment on my post “2011 AAA Screenplay Contest Semi-Finalist.” […]

  8. I just stumbled on this blog and am glad I did!

    I’ve had two scripts in the last year come within a few points of making the semi’s and it’s been frustrating. How do I make it just ‘that’ much better to push it onto ‘the list’? Creative Screenwriting is also a name that I trust as multiple dozens of contests spring up all over the place seeking to suck away our money.

    That trust was shaken a bit by the customer service folks pushing me off and not bothering to answer my questions about the logline contest feedback, though. Thanks to Bill, who managed to get Customer Service to actually send that feedback, I ended up getting a poorly formatted excel spreadsheet from that contest. Maybe the original responses were like that? I think I’m spoiled by the format of the AAA Screenwriting Contest which is easy to read and understand.

    And what happens when a judge says they’d want to read the script based on the logline? Anyone know? Anyone else enter the logline contest?

    • Thanks for stoping by Tammy!

      Making things “that” much better are a combination of the raw story, writing style, and subjectivity. I’m by no means an expert on this, but here’s what I think…

      First, the underlying story has too be solid. Second, your writing style has to be sound (this includes action and dialog). Third, you need a judge who your script clicks with. That’s about it. You can work on the first two, but the third one will always be a wild card. I know this isn’t a whole lot of help specifically to your scripts, but those are the basics.

      When a judge says they’d “want to read the script based on the logline” that’s a compliment. That means the logline did what it is intended to do, hook a reader before they read the first page. I’m horrible at loglines, so you’ve got a leg up on me there!

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