When I put together this whole Logline/Screenplay Contest idea, I knew it was going to be a learning experience. Choosing 100 loglines from a field of 1000 seemed like a logical move after my previous contest. In that contest, 6 out of every 10 scripts I read contained subject matter that I had little interest in. I gave every one of them an equal shot, but as any reader knows, if you’re not interested in an idea, the script is much harder to read. I figured if I could pick 100 loglines that I knew I might like, that a key weakness in the contest structure would be eliminated. Although I’d probably take this same approach again, I’d also listen to what some of the savvier readers suggested, which is to give more weight to the “professional” loglines. People who understood how to craft a “proper” logline were usually better writers (not always – but usually). Not because crafting a “professional” logline has any bearing on writing a screenplay. It just means that that writer has probably been at it longer, and was therefore more experienced.
After that stage, the top 100 logliners sent me their first 10 pages (or a one page synopsis). For the most part, this worked, although I was disappointed with just how many writers had a really good first 10 pages, and then couldn’t back them up. And I think this might be due to the biggest flaw of my contest. People were using the contest to force themselves to write their script. As a result, many of the scripts in the Top 25 felt rushed. I suppose writers rush any script they’re trying to finish for a deadline, but because of the specific structure I used – giving writers only a month between the announcement of the 10-Page winners and when they had to get their full script in – my entries were more rushed than usual. I’d like to figure out a way to fix this for future contests. It may be as simple as lengthening the contest. Though a six month contest is a hell of a long time to wait.
As for the ten page test itself, for the most part, it works. While writing a good first ten pages doesn’t guarantee that the rest of a script will be good (a lot of these scripts dive-bombed in the second act), if your first 10 pages are bad, it’s almost a guarantee that the rest of the script will also be. The only exception is slow-moving understated character pieces, which take awhile to get going. But those are few and far between.
Another thing I learned is that comedy loglines are the hardest to gauge. Although there were a few funny ones, by and large, a funny comedy logline did not translate into a funny script. Also, I’ve noticed that, in general, comedy writers seem to care less about character development than other writers. They believe if they can string a bunch of funny scenes together, that they’ve done their job. Since the second act is pretty much all about the characters, this is where a lot of comedies went to die.
In the end, I was able to find one “impressive” script, which I’m a little disappointed about, because I was hoping to find at least three. Every other script had things I thought could’ve been improved. But all three of the top scripts were good reads for their own reasons. Without further ado, let’s get to it. As announced at the beginning, all three winners will receive 3 pages of free notes from yours truly (E-mail me if you’re interested in rates). And the number 1 script will be reviewed this Friday. If demand is high enough, I’ll also review the second and third place scripts next week.
VOLATILE (Thriller) by William C. Martell (Los Angeles) – Eddy lost everything: his job, his house, his wife. Spends his final unemployment check drinking, wakes up with fresh stitches. Stolen kidney? Implanted bomb. Anonymous caller gives him six one hour tasks: Steal a car, steal a suit, steal a gun… assassinate executives from the company that fired him!
THOUGHTS: The thing I liked most about Volatile was just how focused it was. Watching so many screenplays lose sight of what they were about was disconcerting. You always knew what the protagonist in Volatile’s motivation was. You always knew what the stakes were. It makes for an exciting ride.
KILLER PARTIES (Comedy) by Ben Bolea and Joe Hardesty (Los Angeles) – In the frozen Alaskan tundra, where the sun rarely rises, four best friends struggle against the most terrifying experience of their young lives…graduation.
THOUGHTS: Killer Parties almost won the competition. While it wasn’t the best script of the competition, it’s probably the one I enjoyed the most. I love how a high school comedy is set in a place completely unfamiliar to high school comedies – Alaska. Also, this is the most authentic feeling high school script I’ve read in a long time. I think with a couple of rewrites and some guidance from the kind of manager who likes and understands the material, this could end up becoming a classic film about high school.
OH NEVER, SPECTRE LEAF (Comedy) – By C. Ryan Kirkpatrick and Chad Musick – After a freak plane crash, an awkward teenage boy must enlist the help of a sexually frustrated dwarf, a smokin’ hot cyborg, and an idiot in a bunny suit to defeat the Nocturnal Wench Everlasting and restore sunlight to the bizarre land of Spectre Leaf.
THOUGHTS: It’s rare I read a script where I’m just blown away by the writer’s talent. Kirkpatrick and Musick’s are those kinds of writers. Their writing was by far the best in the competition. It reminded me a lot of when I first read Fiasco Heights. These fucking guys took a totally out there bizarre concept and did what so many writers fail to do, they made it work. From cover to cover, these two knocked it out of the park. Can’t wait to tell you all about it. Tune in on Friday for the review!
LOUISIANA BLOOD (thriller) by Mike Donald (Oxfordshire, UK) – When five victims of JACK THE RIPPER turn up in a swamp more than a century after their deaths, thousands of miles from the crime scene, an English Detective and a Louisiana Sheriff form an unlikely duo to unravel the ultimate conspiracy and reveal the Rippers true identity.
THOUGHTS: I was juggling between Louisiana Blood and Volatile for the Number 3 slot. The twists and turns in this script were a lot of fun, and it’s just a great premise. The only problem was that it was a little slow. If a producer or manager were to work with Mike on this, up the stakes, inject a little adrenaline, this script could sell.
FRANK VS. GOD (comedy) by Stewart Schill – When his home is destroyed by a tornado, and the Insurance Company informs him that the claim falls under the ‘Act of God’ exclusion in his policy, David Frank decides to sue God himself for damages, beginning a hilarious and soulful odyssey to a surprising final judgment.
THOUGHTS: Schill came close. Frank Vs. God is a fun well-written screenplay, but I feel like he misjudges the tone in places, going too dramatic in some spots, and too broad in others. Still, I like high-concept comedies and this is one that almost got it right. Even though it didn’t win, I enjoyed it.
HYPOXIA (thriller) by Daniel Silk – A woman under Witness Protection awakens on a 747 to discover the pilots and passengers unconscious, the plane depressurized and masked men hunting her. With oxygen and fuel rapidly depleting, she must grapple with surrendering herself to save the 242 people on board.
THOUGHTS: The fight for the Best First Ten Pages wasn’t even close. Hypoxia had me on the edge of my couch with my jaw on the floor for its first ten. Just a great action sequence. The script was a little uneven in places, which is why it didn’t place higher, but if I need an action-centered rewrite, I’m calling Daniel.
Donnie and Clint Clark for their script – Roanoke Jamestown: American Patriot (comedy) – The untold story of one of America’s founding fathers, Roanoke Jamestown, and how he got deleted from history.
THOUGHTS: I don’t think these guys are there yet. But I think they will be. I’d actually read another script of theirs under different circumstances, and they have this unique offbeat humor that you can’t teach. I never quite know what to expect when I’m reading a Clark script, and they didn’t disappointment me here. Their intricate knowledge of our nation’s history is a little freaky. Though that may have something to do with the fact that they’re both teachers.
If I were giving advice to any screenwriters thinking about entering contests, I’d say, don’t rush your script. If you’re rushing to *polish* the script, that’s one thing. But if you’re rushing to get a first draft done in time, I can guarantee you it’s not going to do well. They’re just so easy to spot. Also, while I was happy to make this contest free, I feel like a lot of writers used that as an excuse to throw anything at the wall to see what stuck. With nothing lost by entering, maybe I didn’t get the best of what writers had to offer. I’ll probably change that next time. Overall, this was a fun experience. It was long, it was hard, and there were a few streaks where I ran into some…shall we say…difficult to read material. But I want to thank all of you for making this happen. Without your appreciation for the site, nobody would be interested in finding out who won this contest. So thank you all. Let’s do it again soon. :)