For those playing catch-up, Twit-Pitch was a contest I held where anyone could pitch me their screenplay on Twitter as long as it was contained within a single tweet. I chose the top one hundred loglines from those pitches and read the first 10 pages of each, which I live-reviewed on Twitter every evening (join me on Twitter – just yesterday I reached 10,000 followers!), giving writers a rare look into a reader’s head as the screenplay was being read. It was an interesting experience. To read the original discussion of the loglines and contest, head over to the 1300-comment post that occurred afterwards.
So where are we now? Well, the contest resulted in seven scripts whose first 10 pages were so good, they automatically advanced to the finals. There were then twenty “maybes,” pages that were good enough to catch my interest, but not good enough to automatically advance. I went back through those 20 “First Tens” and read them again, picking 13 to join the other 7 in the finals.
Now before I get to the finalists, I want to point out the biggest problem I ran into while reading everyone’s first ten pages. It’s something that happened too many times. There were a LOT of great first scenes, but a lot of bad SECOND scenes.
This is a devastating mistake to make because it speaks to a bigger issue. New writers LOVE writing first scenes. They LOVE pulling the audience in with something wild or weird or different or exciting. But the second they get to their second scene, which usually involves meeting their main character, they stumble around a formless scenario that only barely resembles a movie scene.
In other words, they don’t approach their second scene with the same gusto and “this has to be great” approach they do their first scene. And not surprisingly, this approach continues throughout the script. There are key scenes (the inciting incident, the scene where the hero gets his powers, the scene where the hero meets the female lead, the final battle) where the writer puts everything he has into them. But every other scene? They’re just trying to get through it.
Please – CHANGE THIS APPROACH! Sure, a scene where we meet our main character may not initially seem as exciting as that opening scene where the aliens land on earth. But your job as a writer is to make it JUST AS ENTERTAINING!
Out of curiosity, I watched John Carter yesterday, and was shocked to see that even the highest level professionals make this mistake. We start off with some sort of Mars battle (which wasn’t very good – but at least something was happening). Then we cut to our main character, John Carter, being secretly followed by someone through an Old West town. Carter realizes he’s being followed and knows he has to ditch the tail. So what does he do? He darts behind a group of people. The tail keeps walking, losing him, and we see that John Carter has blended in by keeping his back turned towards us while flirting with a random woman.
THAT’S YOUR FREAKING ESCAPE SCENE???? THAT’S HOW YOU INTRODUCE YOUR MAIN FREAKING CHARACTER??? BY COMING UP WITH THE MOST UNINVENTIVE STANDARD DITCH SCENE IN THE HISTORY OF MOVIES??? HE BLENDS IN WITH THE CROWD AND FLIRTS WITH A GIRL???
At that moment, I knew the movie was screwed. If the writer wasn’t trying to come up with an inventive ditch scene in the very second scene of the movie, then how could I expect him to try on the 20th scene in the movie, or the 30th? I mean look at another chase scene – the Millennium Falcon trying to ditch a Star Destroyer in Empire Strikes Back. You know what happens in that scene? Han Solo turns around and ATTACKS A SHIP 10,000 TIMES BIGGER THAN HIS. The Empire is so surprised, they don’t know what to do. Then, the Falcon disappears from their radar. We eventually learn that Solo has attached his ship to the side of the Star Destroyer, making him invisible. THAT’S a clever scene. THAT’S a scene where the writers actually tried.
The point here is that you can NEVER TAKE SCENES OFF IN A SCRIPT. There shouldn’t be a single scene where you say, “I just need to get through this.” You should try to write the best scene possible every time out. Even if it’s a freaking exposition scene. You need to try and write the best exposition scene you can possibly write. Because I guarantee you, if you take scenes off, we’ll get bored. Don’t EVER let the reader get bored. Always do your best.
Okay, sorry about that. Done with my rant. Here were the original Top 100 of the First Annual Scriptshadow Twit-Pitch Contest. And now HERE are the Top 20 finalists. I will be reading these scripts in full (possibly on Twitter – but still haven’t decided yet) and announcing a winner in 6-8 weeks. Read the first 10 of each yourself and let me know who your frontrunners are.
1) RE-ENACTMENT – A civil war expert and his son must fight to survive a reenactment organized by a dangerous southern cult.
2) THE TRADITION – 1867 After losing her father, a woman unwittingly takes a job as a maid at a countryhouse of aristocratic cannibals.
3) SECOND CHANCE – After winning a nationwide lottery a man must decide what to do with his prize, fifteen minutes of advice to give to his younger self.
4) THE PROVING GROUND – 9 strangers wake in a deserted Mexican town besieged by killing machines: they must discover why they’ve been brought there to survive.
5) TUNDRA - When a U-Boat vanishes in the 1940s, it leads a team of American GIs to a terrifying secret trapped beneath the ice of Antarctica.
6) GUEST - After checking into a hotel to escape her abusive husband, a woman realizes guests in the next room are holding a young girl hostage.
7) GUNPLAY – A terrorist with a $10 mill bounty, a callous soldier of fortune and a mysterious man with no name walk into a bar in Afghanistan.
MAYBES THAT MADE THE CUT
8) FATTIES – When a lonely masochistic chubby chaser is abducted by two fat lesbian serial killers, it’s the best thing that ever happened to him.
9) RING OF LIAR – A lifelong bachelor accidentally proposes to his clingy girlfriend then tries to trick her into dumping him, but the tables soon turn.
10) THE MAN OF YOUR DREAMS – Man loves woman whose dreams predict future, but future she sees isn’t with him. Can he convince her to choose love over fate?
11) THE LAST ROUGH RIDER – It’s 1901. Terrorists have just taken over the White House. And only Theodore Roosevelt can stop them.
12) WOODEN – 22yrs old and tired of the pain and suffering of being a real boy,Pinocchio embarks on a journey to get turned back into a puppet.
13) EVERYTHING FALLS APART – When the world’s biggest superhero agreed to grant a dying boy’s last wish, he didn’t count on the boy wishing for all his powers.
14) UNTITLED WRIGHT BROTHERS – In 1903 North Carolina, the Wright bros attempt the first flight, but shenanigans arise when they fall in love with the same woman.
15) CUT, COPY, PASTE – A group of friends returns from a time-travel fieldtrip to find a nerdy student has altered his past turning him into a living legend.
16) CHAMPAGNE HIGHWAY – A man trying to solve the mystery of his con artist grandfather must overcome his own beliefs and the resistance of his broken family.
17) RIDING THE GRAVY TRAIN – With his favorite fast-food sandwich facing its final week before it’s phased out forever, an obsessed man leads a protest to save it.
18) SANTA MUST DIE – A group of last-minute shoppers trapped in a mall on Christmas Eve are stalked by a demon-possessed Santa. Horror/Comedy.
19) CRIMSON ROAD – Can it get any worse than living next door to a serial killer? It can if you live on CRIMSON ROAD… the whole street is full of them.
20) DOUCHE PATROL – Two partners in the newly created Douche Patrol try to expose a plot to douchify the masses through a reality TV show.
The writers of these scripts have 2 weeks FROM TODAY to get their full scripts to me. If they don’t, I have one alternate ready to take their place, “The Giant’s Passage.” - So hurry up guys!