note: For Thursday’s article, “Matt and Ben Are Bad People,” scroll down.

Yesterday’s dialogue experiment was such a success, I want to do an entire week of them.  Your dialogue scenes versus the pros.  Here’s how it’s going to work.  Send your dialogue scene to with the subject line “ME VS. PRO.”  It needs to be 3 pages or less.  Set the scene up briefly.  Who the key characters are, what happened before the scene, and any important plot information we need to understand the scene.  I’ll pick five of these scenes and find pro scene counterparts for us to compare to.  I may do this next week or the week after, so get your scenes in quick!

  • First

    Are you going to read all entries?
    Or is it a good idea to resubmit every so many hours to keep yours at the top… like how you suggest for Amateur Fridays?

    • klmn

      Good question. I just submitted too.

      • Poe_Serling

        The scene? From your Western script… or something else?

        • klmn

          No, this is from Corridor of Freaks. That was one of the Amateur Offerings the week before the scripts began being offered online (voting by email only). EMMA was the screenplay selected that week. I’ve done some rewriting since then and had Miss SS proofread it. So any miss-spellings you can blame her are all my fault. :)

          • Poe_Serling

            Corridor of Freaks. I remember that one.

            Great title. Very Herschel Gordon Lewis-like.

            If your scene makes it to the top of the pile (are you listening, Carson), I’d have it go into the ring against the modern-day counterpart of Lewis – Robert Rodriguez. That’s just my idea, of course.

            “klmn vs. Rodriguez”

          • klmn

            This is just a dialogue scene, so no freaks yet. They come later, but this is a good scene.

            Bring on the champ! I want the champ!

          • klmn

            Denzel can come too.

            I’ll whup him too!

  • For The Lulz

    Well…just submitted. Hope it doesn’t end up in the junk pile, lol. I can take that from agents, managers, producers…..but not an e-mail service.

    I couldn’t take that…..I just couldn’t.

  • Poe_Serling

    “You vs. Pro”

    Could be fun. Some of the possible marquee battles… “Grendl vs. Goldman” … “Malibo Jackk vs. Gilroy”… and so on.

    • klmn

      Are you in? How about Poe Serling VS Serling?

      • Poe_Serling

        lol. I’m pretty sure Rod would have no problem kicking my ass… even from the fifth dimension.

        • Kirk Diggler

          Wait. Rod Serling sang with Marilyn McCoo?

          • Poe_Serling

            Yeah, poor Rod was given the boot when Billy Davis Jr. showed up on the scene.

            And it was our loss – I think Rod would’ve nailed the duet “You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)” with Marilyn.

  • klmn

    I like this idea. Submitting actual writing rather than just log lines. What a concept!

    • Scott Crawford

      I still say let’s have an OUTLINE or TREATMENT contest! But I’m not getting much traction here for it.

      • klmn

        I’m game.

  • K.B. Houston

    Very excited about this. I think a big problem with amateur screenwriters is that we don’t understand the nuances that separate our scripts from the pros. This should be a great first-person lesson demonstrating why the pros are the pros and we’re still trying to catch up!

  • Logic Ninja

    Awesome idea! Submitted.

  • klmn

    I wonder if Walker will submit a catalogue scene?

  • Poe_Serling

    “And it would be an interesting exercise to keep secret who wrote which
    one to see if the board can tell the difference. A blind taste test as
    it were.”

    That’s an excellent suggestion.

    • Somersby

      I agree. A much better exercise. Reading scenes out of context isn’t fair to the script or to the writer — amateur or pro. You can’t judge a soup by tasting only one or two of its ingredients. Navy beans? Meh. Turnip? Yuck. But my mother could make a soup that included both …and WOW!

      I think most of the frequenters on this board have likely written a great scene or two — or possibly many — but a scene can’t stand on its own. It needs to be part of a story. I think it’s futile to ask us to evaluate a scene separated from the very thing that gives it life.

      I think of that great “What do you mean I’m funny?” scene in Goodfellas. Taken on its own, out of context, and knowing nothing of Joe Pesci’s character Tommy, the scene would be unremarkable. But in context, knowing his volatile, unpredictable nature, the scene jumps off the page, jumps off the screen.

      Context is everything.

      • brenkilco

        Yes and no. Granted that a couple of memorable scenes don’t guarantee a great movie. Though isn’t there an old Hollywood adage that a terrific movie has three great scenes and no bad ones? But I think you can tell quite a bit about a writer from a great scene. The Dennis Hopper Christopher Walken scene in True Romance is by far the best thing in the movie. In fact, taken alone it may be the best scene QT ever wrote. Nothing else in the movie comes close but you watch that scene and you know the writer has something unique.

  • Logic Ninja

    Yeah, I second that. Maybe reveal the source of some scripts for easy comparison, but hide the source of others.

  • ripleyy

    It’s basically scene week but with a twist. Interesting! I’ll definitely be submitting.

  • S_P_1

    How do you select a scene to send from a PDF file, or how do you do save just a scene from Final Draft 8?

    • Craig Mack

      Save it as a new file in FD8…. then delete everything except the scene you want… export to PDF.

    • r.w. hahn

      Hi lite and copy the scene you want. Open a “NEW” script. Paste it in. then Save It as…whatever you want…then “Save As PDF” and name it again….

  • ThomasBrownen

    This is such a cool idea!

  • klmn

    It may not be fair, but that’s pretty much what new writers are up against. Your words lying flat on a page against the reputation and goodwill of an established pro.

    The new writer has the advantage of freshness. The reader hasn’t seen his work before.

    I say let the contest begin.

  • Nicholas J

    As the saying goes, life is fair. Er, wait, that’s not right…

    I say bring it on. Give me the pro, mental real estate and all. If I end up with blood on my face, fine. I could use a good punch in the mouth. And if not, the win will be that much sweeter.

  • ASAbrams

    This should be an excerpt from a script that’s completed, right?

    • klmn

      I’d say so. I think it should be a scene that serves a purpose in a screenplay rather than just something whipped up for a contest.

  • K.B. Houston

    Well, I’m glad you reached deep inside yourself to find the courage to make an anonymous assumption about my outlook on the screenwriting world and ultimate career success based on one comment I left on an Internet chat board. That takes a special kind of incisiveness.

    Or you’re just a really jaded cynic, which, if I had to go out on a limb, I’d probably peg you as given your general attitude towards everything on this blog.

    You wanna know what’s really nauseating? Aside from your attitude, it’s guys like you who think they’re the threshold guardians of the Internet screenwriting world, who sit behind a computer all day long and pass unwarranted, misguided judgement on all the people out there really trying to work their rear ends off to do something with their lives.

    You think I’m unaware of the myriad of awful screenwriters in Hollywood? Blind to the multitudes of cringeworthy scripts that get greenlit every year? Perhaps the difference between you and I is that I could care less. I hold no grudges against people I don’t know for producing awful art. Sure, I loathe it as much as anyone, but I don’t let it distort my perception of screenwriting as a craft, nor do I let it drown out all the GREAT scripts that also get produced each year.

    Look, I don’t respond to people like this often, but I feel this is warranted given the contemptuous nature of your comment. I apologize to Carson for even taking this sort of tone here, but these things need to be said. Every day when I open up my computer to read screenwriting blogs I run into incessant discouragement from curmudgeons like you. Nobody’s asking you to be a cheerleader and engender the vast number of terrible aspiring screenwriters out there, but blindly appraising the talent, drive and determination of people you don’t even know simply because you’ve got statistics on your side isn’t exactly doing the screenwriting world any favors either. This sort of disdain wears on you after years of exposure and it just so happens that on this day I’m completely worn out.

    So again, I apologize for stooping to your level and distracting from what should be an awesome discussion on a great post idea from Carson.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m off to write the next million-dollar spec. I’ll be sure to send you a picture of the check when it arrives in the mail.


    • grendl


      Your comment was the most discouraging thing an amateur screenwriter on this blog could possibly read.

      ” I think a big problem with amateur screenwriters is that we don’t understand the nuances that separate our scripts from the pros.”

      Speak for yourself about not understanding nuances, okay, not for amateur screenwriters.

      Perhaps its your lack of precision with words that give the impression that you think “pro” means something other than someone earned a paycheck for their writing.

      “You think I’m unaware of the myriad of awful screenwriters in Hollywood? Blind to the multitudes of cringeworthy scripts that get greenlit every year?”

      Your comment didn’t reflect this knowledge you had. Read it over again.

      Oh, wait, you couldn’t care less. Which means you’re just spitting out words and are upset when someone points out their idiocy.

      And yeah, get to work on that spec and email me when you get your first payment. Then I’ll send you your own post about amateur writers and how full of shit it was.

      • Scott Crawford

        It was a comment, grendl, a comment on Disqus. It took maybe fifteen seconds to write. It’s not a non-fiction book on the future of screenwriting. It’s a short comment. Like this. It’s a short comment. OK? Is that OK by you, and all your fan club?

        We are allowed to make comments without being attacked the way you attacked Mr. Houston. If you don’t want to play nice then you can go back to whatever comments board you’ve been haunting for the last few months.

    • silvain

      Good points all, KB. Guys like Grendl can be toxic on these boards. It’s usually because they just don’t get it.

      I can see where he’s coming from, however. Basically, he’s saying, “don’t be intimidated by those who draw a paycheck.” It’s kinda like before Kobe Bryant came into the NBA, when he was still in a Philadelphia teen, and he’d watch the NBA’ers and say to himself, “I can do all those things, and I think I can even do em better.” And, by and large, he was right. But, where Grendl’s take breaks down is that most aspiring writers are not high school Kobe Bryants. You’re absolutely right — as far as *working* pros are concerned, there work *is* better. There nuances *are* more nuanced. There wit *is* a little wittier. But that’s really just about talent.

      Go watch the pilot episode of STUDIO 60. I defy any amateur trying to ramp up a career to write dialogue exchanges so tight, so in-character, so ridiculously witty it makes your head spin. Can’t be done, I’m sorry. That takes years of seasoning. Or, if you can get a hold of it, read the opening sequence to the new Inarritu (sp?) film, BIRDMAN. Funny as shit, yet there’s a poignancy there that’s just heartbreaking. And the Spanish auteur just captures it perfectly. I honestly don’t see how Carson could give that script a “What The Hell” rating. Honestly, it makes me question whether or not he knows what makes a script tick, despite his discovering and championing of The Discipleship Program, which, to be frank, I’m really kinda luke warm about.

      Or go read, or watch, the opening act of any Quentin Tarantino film. Any, including Death Proof and Jackie Brown. The guy just has a way of drawing you in, in a way I’d imagine heroin must flow down a junkie’s veins. The opening of Inglourious Basterds, with Christolph Waltz terrorizing a French farmer is like mainlining hot butter into your arteries.

      If you can achieve that in your first five times at bat, I salute you. But most of you, unless you’re the equivalent of high school Kobe, can’t. And let’s all remember here that in Kobe’s rookie year, in a Western Semi-conf tilt vs. the Utah Jazz, he shot three air balls in the final minute of overtime to seal the Laker’s loss. Even the soon-to-be-great Kobe studied the GOAT’s game, meaning Jordan’s, and learned how to better himself by emulating the Greatest Of All Time.

      Here’s the point: Once you judge something, you can’t learn from it. Beware of amateurs who disdain the pros and just think it was a chance meeting or coming up with a “great fucking idea!” premise that got them over the moat. If we want to emulate working writers — and why would you want to emulate any other kind? — then we have to learn from them. Or, as Pai Mei might say, “*That* is the beginning of wisdom!” (or something like it).

      These days, everyone’s either got a laptop, a notebook or at least a freaking pencil; every single one of us can create some kind of a story. There’s no barriers to entry.

      Except one:

      Surprise me. Surprise me with a story, and characters, I’ve never seen before.

      And if you can do that, you can write your own freakin’ ticket here.

      Silvain out.

      • K.B. Houston

        Thanks for the response Silvain. Agreed on all fronts — especially thanks to the basketball references. As a huge basketball fan myself, you’re speaking my language!

        The Kobes and LeBrons of the world are rare — extremely rare. I have lots of confidence in my abilities but I also understand the numbers and odds. Do I think, after all my studying is complete and I’ve written a few scripts, that I can hang with the pros? Absolutely. And if for whatever reason any of us SS readers turned into the next Kobe or LeBron then I’d be ecstatic. But realistically what we should all hope for is just to be drafted. Get noticed. Get your scripts in the hands of Hollywood players. Ultimately, get your foot in the door and once your there work your tail off. Do whatever you can to stay in the league, to be better than your contemporaries. And if you make a few All-Star teams or even act as role player on a championship team, that’s all that really matters in the end, right?

        As they say, shoot for the moon and if you miss you’ll land amongst the stars.

  • klmn

    OT: Cobra Loose In LA Neighborhood

    Now y’all go out and round up the little feller!

  • Scott Crawford

    A short description of the scene but not a whole title page, I would think. That would take less than a quarter of the page, so probably just use the other 2 3/4 pages for the scene, rather than submitting 3 1/4 pages. Good luck!

  • carsonreeves1

    No, definitely no title pages!

    • Kirk Diggler

      Now ya tell us.

      • carsonreeves1

        I guess it doesn’t matter. But let’s just say you don’t need to. Also, no need to re-send if you already sent with a title page.

    • Midnight Luck

      I found there was something really interesting about seeing everyone’s writing. Seeing all the people who submitted’s take on that scene yesterday.

      With the format of this, we will only see a select few.

      Now I am not saying it is worse, just saying, there’s something interesting and constructive, along with educational, about reading people’s creation on the fly. Seeing what they came up with, while starting with someone else’s story, and on a short time frame.

      Just a thought.

  • bex01

    Great idea! I might submit – will take a look at my dialogue scenes. Even though I’m totally petrified of having anything I’ve written put up for all to see… which is a ridiculous fear, and I know the feedback here is always awesome! But I’m still so nervous

  • brenkilco

    Fabulous idea. But I think Carson’s brain would be silly putty after reading essentially the same scene twenty or thirty times