So as you know (or at least, you better know), the Scriptshadow Short Script Contest is happening as we speak! You have until March 12th to get your entries in. The winner gets their short film produced here at Scriptshadow and premiered here on the site. It’s going to be YUUUUGE.

But you know me. I’m impatient. I live in a world of instant gratification and I feel like being gratified. So we’re going to have a mini-short contest right here and right now.

Here’s how it works. Write a short that includes AT LEAST TWO of yesterday’s “Best Bang For Your Buck” tools. That is, in case you forgot…

1) setup and payoffs
2) dramatic irony
3) showing and not telling
4) an underdog
5) a ticking time bomb

Post your short in the comments (you can write it inside the comment or include a PDF link). Page count is open but I recommend staying under 5 pages.

Whichever short gets the most up-votes by Sunday 10pm Pacific Time will be the winner. That short will be officially entered into the contest free of the 2-shorts rule (so you can still enter TWO MORE shorts via e-mail submission).

You’ll get your short in front of our director. And to top it all off, I’ll give you a FREE FIRST 10 PAGES consultation on any feature or pilot you’re working on.

So get to work and good luck!


  • Dimitri

    Is there a way we can learn more about the directory? I’m very curiious to see he’s done, etc.

    • Scott Crawford

      Director! Honestly, Dimitri, i was a little confused as to what you were talking about!

      Agreed! Let’s see who this director is…

      • Dimitri

        Haha, sorry, guess I wasn’t really awake when I wrote it.

  • klmn

    A chance for a bonus entry. Thanks, C. I’ll post one tomorrow.

  • Lucid Walk

    Yesterday, I said, “Amateur Fridays returns tomorrow!”


    • Scott Crawford

      Yeah, yeah, Lucid’s always right… its Friday. And it’s Amateur.

  • ShortsWriter

    I wrote this tonight for the contest! Good luck everyone! I went with everything but dramatic irony.


    Logline: In a world where first grade starts today, a young boy must survive the day in order to make an important date.

    • PQOTD

      Aw, that’s sweet. :)

    • Scott Crawford

      Nice! Definitely fulfills idea 3) Show don’t tell.

      I’m not sure I would enter it for the MAIN contest – it’s a little too sweet and I don’t think there’s a FEATURE there so I think it would (bluntly) get its ass kicked by some of the other entrants. But I would vote this to win this weekend’s contest and then you could write two others for the big one.

      You can definitely write!

    • hickeyyy

      This is excellent. I really quite enjoyed it. Nice work.

    • Randy Williams

      Writing is first rate here, I thought. Tickling the senses with a boy squenching his thirst with a juice box on a hot day.- masterful. The ending felt a wee bit lacking in set up.

      • ShortsWriter

        Thanks RW.

        I agree that the ending could have been paced better, but i didnt want to go over 4 pages long. With a terse writing style staying to page count while including everything can be tough. The ending is abrupt, but I made sure i hit all the beats and thats what really mattered.

  • Dimitri

    Liked it!

  • Scott Crawford

    See, I didn’t understand this at all. Maybe I’m sleepy, maybe I’m not smart enough but – hey! – a lot of people who read scripts are tired and thick. So you have to make sure that they can understand it IN THE FIRST READ.

    As it is, I can tell you what this is about.

  • Malibo Jackk

    Tall shorts and Short shorts.
    A chance to shine.

  • Scott Crawford

    This is a terrific idea, Jesse, more in the spirit of the feature-potential aspect of the contest.

    Having said that, I do feel it’s a TAD overwritten; two sentences when one might do. This may be a drawback of the show don’t tell – you’re trying to describe so many details to us, even as to how someone drinks from a fridge.

    Other people may not agree and in any event the end is terrific and makes me want to read more.

    It was also a fairly easy and FAST read despite the overwriting. So nice work!

  • Dimitri

    Awesome! Only thing is you’ll need a pretty big budget to make this. But I think there’s a great version out there that’s a little bit smaller.

    I also love the super at the end, and then the title. Very cinematic.

    Great irony by the way, with them being man’s best friend and all.

  • hickeyyy

    I dug this. Very cool!

  • hickeyyy

    Well this is the first Short I’ve ever written myself. I used an idea I had for a full length so I think it could be a full-length feature, but who knows. I’m not sure it hits any/all of Carson’s listed 5 things, but I still wouldn’t mind trading notes and getting opinions.

    TITLE: SleepStudy
    GENRE: Horror
    LOGLINE: A man who has been sleepwalking goes in for a sleep study where things go terribly, terribly wrong.

    • Randy Williams

      With the science behind the sleep study itself, the motives of more than a few characters, it seems better suited for a feature to me unless whittled down to one character perhaps and really pushing a sense of no escape from being vulnerable in this lab? As is, I enjoyed it. Nice and creepy.

      • Nick Morris

        Agreed. Would make a very cool feature.

      • hickeyyy

        Thanks, Randy! It definitely is a feature idea I crammed down into a short. Carson mentioned he wanted a short that could be a feature, so I have a feature that could be a short :)

    • Nick Morris

      Great work, hickeyyy. I especially dug the conducting the orchestra bit.

      • hickeyyy

        Thanks, Nick. I wanted a visual way to portray that she was controlling his actions while he slept.

    • Erica

      Very cool!

      Would love to have seen some payoff with the picture at the beginning.

  • Scott Serradell


    GENRE: Crime/Black Comedy
    LOGLINE: A meticulously professional hitman faces an unexpected challenge during a political assignation.

    • hickeyyy

      I like it, but I think you should name the hero Mr. Clean instead of Man. :)

      Generally I don’t like the starting a story with the protag getting out of bed trope, but I think it works and is necessary here to see where things are going.

    • JakeBarnes12

      Your story starts on p. 3 with him setting up the rifle.

      Convey his obsessiveness through ONE EXAMPLE when the plot starts, not with two pages of lifestyle porn.

      Telling us he ascends to the second floor, next line to the third, next line to the fourth — pure waste of space. If you open and he’s at the window of a tall building, we know he walked up the stairs.


      Okay, reached the end, you need him in his kitchen getting obsessive. That’s HALF A PAGE, max, not waking up, what brand of loofah he uses, etc.

      Don’t buy meticulous hitman spraying and praying.

      Don’t buy not knowing who the target was — this is an example of the writer straining for irony, forcing the story over sense.

      Definitely don’t buy anyone surviving gun to roof of mouth and pulling the trigger — dude, doing that you blow your brains out.

      Ironic enough that he messes up his kitchen.

      There’s a decent three-page short here.

  • Nicholas

    TITLE: The Final
    GENRE: Thriller
    LOGLINE: A high school student discovers a dark secret of his high school on the day of his history final.

    • PQOTD

      Nice read. At 17 pages, though, it’s long for Carson’s specs (8 pages, and if it creeps up toward 15 there better be a really good reason for it). It’s also probably too expensive to make what with the numbers of extras and locations needed. There are things you could lose to reduce page count without gutting your story.

      I think you could start your story later than you do, say with the kid entering the classroom door. Him running through lots of facts and figures would be fine in a feature, where you have page count to permit that, but here it’s unhelpful. You take maybe a page highlighting that he’s been studying hard. I’d suggest have him yawning and looking bleary-eyed, as if he’s been up all night studying.

      I know that means you lose Ms. Ava, but she’s basically there to indulge his teen crush. If a teen’s crush on a teacher was the premise of your story, sure, or if this was a feature, then it’s a sub-plot and you have page count to do it. But not here.

      Likewise with some of what Ms. Stemgate says in the elevator – it’s obvious exposition, and imho, a bit redundant when you don’t have the luxury of lots of pages. I’d also do away with the whole student prison thing – it adds expense with extras and another location, raises questions about how the school gets away with it and nobody notices, and is generally problematic.

      Maybe have him go straight for the air duct in the corridor outside the torture chamber – it’s more efficient – then minimise his time in there to cut the length a bit more. Good luck!

    • PQOTD

      Oh, yeah – and forget the masked men, Nicholas! Have the characters he’s been studying turn up – cruel Caligula, the Inquisitor Torquemada, a hooded executioner armed with a whatever-they-call-it axe-thing for cutting heads off, etc. You won’t need ten of them – just three or four to make the point.

  • Nick Morris


    * Not actually unsafe to open. :)

    GENRE: Horror

    LOGLINE: A package marked “DO NOT OPEN” mysteriously appears on the doorstep of a single, lonely young woman.

    • Mayhem Jones

      Nick what in the goddamn hell is wrong with you… LOL!!!! This is the only one I’ve opened so far (I’m on a work break) and I gotta say, I loved it! TWISTED!! Plenty of suspense and well-written. Great job!

      • Nick Morris

        “Nick what in the goddamn hell is wrong with you… LOL!!!!”

        Haha! I get that a lot. Thanks, Mayhem! :)

    • PQOTD

      Just as well you didn’t call it “DO NOT DOWNLOAD”, ‘cos I might not have… BIG tick, Nick!

      • Nick Morris

        Thank you!

    • hickeyyy

      This is fun. Not too brutal. A small budget. Could be a winner!

      • Nick Morris

        Thanks, hickeyyy!

    • Erica


      • Nick Morris

        Interesting. Thanks, Erica! I banged this out pretty quickly at work this morning so it’s very much still open to revisions. Cheers!

    • Randy Williams

      Well, mystery boxes don’t get any better than this. Superb storytelling as usual. A question I might raise is, the ending with the box resealed and unopened again could portend a cycle it goes through, like a zombie virus infecting people. So when she first encounters the box she could possibly witness something outside which vsubtly suggests a similar ending to her experience. And thinkinh back on it, the audience would make that connection.

      • Nick Morris

        I like it. Thanks, Randy!

  • Poe_Serling



    INT. SCRIPTSHADOW HQ – SCREENING ROOM (actually just a living room) – NIGHT

    Decorated in Early Star Wars. Just to be a hipster – an 8X10 of JJ Abrams hanging
    above the coat rack of stylish hoodies.

    The stage is all set for a party. Burgers, fries, and shakes from you know where
    on the coffee table. Ginormous flat screen TV ready to go.

    CARSON, our really really ridiculously good-looking underdog, stands frozen
    in front of his media storage cabinet.

    The time travel shelf is packed full of titles. So is the ’80s and beyond shelf.


    The classic section. A bit skimpy by comparison: just High Noon and Rear
    Window collecting dust.

    Much like Gary Cooper, Carson sneaks a quick peek at the clock on the
    wall. That second hand is moving way too fast for him.

    Beads of sweat pop up on his forehead. He begins chewing on his lower lip.

    Then he spots IT.

    A DVD box out of place. Somehow it got mixed in with Back to the Future
    1,2, and 3.

    Carson grabs the box. His hands tremble with joy.


    Cyborg 2087. Almost twenty years before The Terminator hit the big

    Perfect! It’s got time travel… the ’80s… well, 2087…

    With a shrug:

    Close enough.


    • PQOTD

      Just got out of bed (it’s still dark here) and what’s the first thing I see on checking SS? This, Poe! Thank you for getting my day off to a mirthful start. :)

    • E.C. Henry

      Totally Carson. You should film this short.

      • Poe_Serling

        Oh, it’s just for fun. It’s not meant to be part of today’s challenge.

        • PQOTD

          Throw this hat in the ring, Poe. It’s funny.

          • Poe_Serling

            Yeah, the budget would be about two bucks – some cover
            art of C 2087 to slap on a DVD box. ;-)

    • Erica


  • Lanzo Weyn

    Mine’s a little long (that’s what she said), 10 pages. But considering it was 30, I’m happy to be at 10.

    1) setup and payoffs
    4) an underdog

    TITLE: Eyes of Colors

    LOGLINE: A 12-year-old girl dreams of being famous, but after a freak accident makes her an overnight worldwide sensation she quickly learns that fame, in fact, truly sucks.

  • Nick Morris

    Cool. I’d watch the hell out of a feature version of this!

  • Nick Morris

    Woo hoo! Thanks, Justin!

  • Randy Williams

    I have three ideas for the short contest. Already submitted one. The remaining two include this idea. I had not started writing it yet, not sure how I wanted to end it. So, seeking advice from anyone. This is basically how it starts. The ending remains a question mark.


    (The following is in black and white. There is no sound).



    The moon escapes behind the only clouds. Three male Mexican BORDER CROSSERS trudge across large rocks.

    One, ALEJANDRO, 20, loses his footing on a rock, slips, falls into a crevasse.

    His companions struggle and pull him up. Alejandro opens his mouth in a scream of pain.

    One companion kicks at boards on a old weathered shack.

    Alejandro lies on a makeshift gurney of boards. His body tied down by his companions’ connected belts.

    His companions struggle as they carry Alejandro, pulling up their pants along the way.

    A rise of dust in the horizon reflected by the moon. A set of headlights.

    The companions pull Alejandro, on the boards, up into A TREE.

    They position him there behind foliage to hide him.

    They climb down, scatter as a BORDER PATROL VEHICLE kicks up dust. Searchlights beam on the companions as they disappear into brush.


    Bright sunlight reflects on a set of binoculars lens. One of Alejandro’s companions points out areas to a BORDER PATROL OFFICER who scans the area with his binoculars, concentrating on any tree. He shakes his head, no sign.


    The same Patrol Officer rides through the area in his vehicle, searching.


    A BIRD lands on a shoe.

    Alejandro looks up at the crown of tree above him. Squirms against the belts holding him down.


    Alejandro sleeps. The leaves of the tree sway with a wind around him.


    Rain falls for a brief moment. Alejandro opens his mouth, relishing the relief.
    Water collects on the belts.


    Alejandro struggles, gets one arm released from the belts. He struggles to reach something on a branch.

    A Bird flutters above his head, manically. Claws meet face. Lines of blood form on Alejandro’s face.

    He smiles. The winner. Opens a palm, revealing an EGG.

    Alejandro smashes it against his lips, devours it.


    Time has passed. Alejandro has thinned and sports a beard.
    Suddenly the earth seems to shake. Bright lights, clouds of dust. Alejandro screams and chokes up dust as he does so.
    He turns his head. Flashes of headlights. Construction vehicles.


    Alejandro sleeps. His entire body covered in white dust. His face looks Anglo.
    A ROCK knocks him in the head. He awakes with a start.

    More rocks. He turns his head. A crowd of people in the distance. Protest signs.
    Alejandro screams. He struggles against the remaining belts, their leather weathered and torn. With all his might, he pushes against his restraints.

    He falls back in defeat.

    (That’s it. I have some ideas for the ending…what does anyone think?
    1. He gets down from the tree, meets eyes with a border patrol, just as a volley of tear gas is launched at the protesters and he escapes within the tear gas cloud to them and he is taken into town along with them.
    2. He finally gets down from the tree to find the border wall constructed and he is on the wrong side.
    3. He finally gets down from the tree to find the border wall constructed and he is on the right side.

    • Nick Morris

      Nice, Randy. And VERY topical. I think I like ending 2. Or maybe I’m just sadistic. :)

  • klmn

    Okay, here’s a link to mine. Just two pages and a title page.

    I’ll paste the file into a reply to this one for those who don’t want to download. (I’ll clip off the title page)

    • klmn

      Here’s the script. I’m using the pre tag to preserve formatting, but you will have to scroll right to see all the text. It’s only two pages, so it won’t be too much trouble.

      NARRATOR (O.S.)
      Beginning in the 14th Century, the
      Bubonic Plague – also called the
      Black Death – killed over 100 million
      It was called the Black Death because –
      before you died – you broke out in
      black pustules. That’s like a large
      pimple filled with black pus.
      Enjoy the show, folks!
      FADE IN
      DAD sits in his easy chair, smoking a pipe and reading
      Business Week.
      An ANGUISHED SCREAM pierces the silence.
      MOM runs in from the kitchen. She wears an apron and holds
      a dish towel in her hands.
      She races through the family room as Dad clambers out of his
      They arrive at
      KELLY – a teenage girl in a formal gown – stands in front of
      the mirror, looking distraught at the huge black pustule on
      her face.
      What’s wrong, dear?
      I can’t go to the prom like this!
      Everyone will laugh!
      Oh Kelly, it’s not that bad. Just
      dab on a little concealer.
      I tried! It doesn’t work! You can
      still see it!
      I think you’re overreacting. So you
      got a pimple. Everyone gets ‘em.
      Your friends will understand.
      You just go to your prom. Derrick
      will be here soon to pick you up.
      Yeah. You can’t let a little thing
      like this stop you from living your
      The family – Mom, Dad, and Kelly – are all in the family
      I’m so glad you talked me into going.
      I had a great time.
      And nobody teased you about your
      No. It’s a funny thing. Most of
      the kids had ‘em too.
      There was one thing. Kevin fell
      over dead into the punchbowl. Mr.
      Henderson had to drag him outside
      and burn his corpse so the rats
      wouldn’t eat him.

      THE END

      • klmn

        Evidently Disqus has changed the way it handled the pre tag. It did screw up the formatting and you don’t have to scroll right.

        • Erica

          I would use google docs or something, the bummer part is you can’t see how many views you have.

          • klmn

            There are probably some people who don’t want to download for one reason or another. I ‘m not putting too much emphasis on today’s contest – I’m entering mostly for the chance at a ten page review of my upcoming project.

    • klmn

      Forgot the title – BLACK DEATH BLUES.

      Logline: The Bubonic Plague comes to suburbia at a most inconvenient time.

      • Randy Williams

        That was funny! But more like an SNL skit than a short for me.

    • Erica

      So it’s not what I was expecting with the ending. Was fun! I think the dialogue was a little off, not coming across as real, almost forced.

  • Erica

    Uggg, crazy couple of days. My doggy had a seizure yesterday. Scariest think ever. She’s doing fine and the blood work came back, all good. So now it’s just a wait and see if she has another one. Sorry Nick, but I couldn’t read your script with the dog. It sounds cool, but just too emotional right now.

    Anyways, I’ll post my short that I’ve rewrite in a new post, just uploading it now.

    • PQOTD

      Hope your pooch is okay, Erica. xx

      • Erica

        Thank you,

        She’s returning to her normal self again for now, it was a long night, too worried to sleep.

        • PQOTD

          Pretty horrible thing for you both, and it’s not like you can explain to her what happened.

          • Erica

            Yeah exactly.

    • Nick Morris

      Hey, Erica. Hope both you and your four-legged friend are doing alright. For whatever it’s worth, the short I posted here is 100% canine free. :) You may be thinking of the feature I’m currently working on…

      • Erica

        Oh your right, my bad, It’s the script posted by Jesse is the one I was mixing it up with. I’ll check it out.

    • klmn

      My mom had a Pekingese that started having seizures when it got older. The vet did a blood test and it turned out to be epilepsy. Despite taking pills for it, the seizures became more frequent until the poor little dog had to be put down.

      Hope your dog has a better outcome.

      • Erica

        The vet doesn’t think it’s epilepsy. So now it’s just the waiting game.

    • Jesse

      I hope your dog’s okay. Sorry to hear that.

  • Erica

    My short.

    Title: Goodbye
    Logline: After being physically abused, a terrified women sets in motion her plan early to trap her abusive husband when he draws a gun on her.

  • Erica

    Alarm clock,
    Father – go to school. I think you hit ever troop right off the bat. Sorry, don’t want to sound mean, but is there another way to start off?

    Oh and Welcome, glad you posted! Hope to see more. Keep on writing!

  • Randy Williams

    I think this is just too rich in characterization, setting, material and voice to be a short. I laughed and enjoyed the bizarreness, however. Please submit to AOW and let us enjoy your work.

  • Randy Williams

    Loved this even though the format made me expect the words to rhyme. In a short time we’ve covered the intimacies, insecurities and resentments of a couple.
    I think everyone should think about writing and submitting one without dialogue.

  • The Old Man

    A little help?

    Without a good logline, Carson won’t consider a script. Probably won’t even open it.

    I have an 8 page short ready to send, but I suck at loglines. These are 2 versions I’m considering:

    After having to wait eight years, a police detective’s plan to avenge her father’s murder becomes jeopardized when her partner finds out and tries to stop her.

    A police detective’s plan to avenge her father’s murder is jeopardized when her partner finds out what she’s about to do.

    Which is better? Or can anyone suggest another one?

    I appreciate any help.

    • Nick Morris

      Definitely # 2. Sounds cool!

      • The Old Man

        Thanks, Nick & PQ.

    • PQOTD

      I’m with Nick on this one: #2.

    • Randy Williams

      #2, but I wonder if adding something like “by the book” partner (assuming that’s why he is an obstacle) might punch this up a bit and suggest conflict?

      • The Old Man

        That’s a good thought, Randy. But since I’m considering a longer version for a feature or TV, her partner is far from being “by the book”.

    • Eldave1

      # 2 is better only because 8 years doesn’t really add anything. But I think it could be improved. What you have is fairly sequential and a little vague. And you don’t need both jeopardized and when the partner finds out because the former is obvious – i.e., if someone finds out – it’s jeopardized. So, what if you flipped it a little. e.g.,

      When a female detective’s plot to avenge her father’s death is discovered by her partner —– then what happens?

      I do don’t know the story so can’t fill it in. But what choice does this detective have to make? Just making something up here to illustrate the point – but something like:

      When a female’s detective’s plot to avenge her father’s death is discovered by her partner, she must decide whether to kill both her partner as well as her father’s killer.

      Long winded way of saying – the logline should include what hard choice your protag is face with – not just the hard hard circumstance.

      • The Old Man

        Thanks for your thoughts.

        The protagonist (female detective) doesn’t have a hard choice to make. She’s going to kill her father’s murderer, regardless of the consequences.

        The story is about her relationship (not sexual) with her partner. She won’t change. Will he? It’s complicated. :)

  • Randy Williams

    It’s a good idea, I think, and the writing is really smooth and goes down with ease. I thought you gave it away too soon by having her talk about getting a sub. A short, I think, works best when the twist is revealed towards or at the end.
    Also, the question as to where are all her students? hangs there for me and dominates the ending.
    Good start.

  • RBradley

    Not sure if this link will work.

    • scriptfeels

      It opened up my google docs, so i wasnt able to read it :(