Wednesday, April 26, 2006

WRITERS ON THE STORM contest update

An update from contest coordinator Portia Jefferson:

I've been impressed with the quality of entries thus far in the contest. Many of our readers have read for the top contests in town, and they have all been surprised at the quality of scripts Writers On The Storm has received. Many of the story premises are not only fresh and unique, but they have a great deal of commercial potential. The winning scripts for most contests tend to be dramas (usually period pieces) that deal with historical events, historical figures or serious issues in the world. While we too like well-written scripts in this genre, what sets us apart is that we are giving equal weight to comedies, broad comedies, romantic comedies, horror films, thrillers and other genre films. We are looking for great scripts that people will actually want to go see. We know the marketplace and we definitely are looking for a script that can, and will, sell. And we are going to do everything in our power to help our winning writer do so.

So, keep sending in comedies, thrillers, and genre scripts. We are eager to read them all.

A couple of tips from our readers to help make a good impression on them:

-- BRADS MATTER. Use three-hole-punch paper, with a white cardstock cover and backing. Use TWO brads - Acco 1 ¼ inch solid brass fasteners are the norm. You're right if you think it's a minor issue and that it shouldn't have any affect on the reader. But, unfortunately, first impressions matter, and if the writer doesn't have the script bound in the proper way, then we tend to think that they don't know much about proper structure either. It's trivial… but do it.

-- PROTAGONIST. We want to meet the protagonist by page three. AND we want to know WHO the protagonist is and what his or her goal is. This is the number one flaw with most scripts - it's either hard to identify the protagonist OR it's hard to identify the protagonist's goal. Make it crystal clear.

-- ACTION BLOCKS. Keep them short. Three to four lines at the most. If we see THICK, CHUNKY action blocks, we get bummed out. As a reader, it's awful to turn a page and see a BIG chunk of action. Break it up, make sure there's plenty of white space on the page. Make the script easy to read.

-- CONFLICT. Make sure there is conflict on every page of your script. The worst scripts have scenes with characters simply chatting to each other. If a scene does not move the story forward AND expand our understanding of the characters, then either rework it or cut it.

-- PARENTHETICALS. Don't over use these. Basically, you should only use them if you need to tell the reader whom a character is speaking to. If you have to tells us what the character is feeling, thinking or doing, then there is something wrong with the dialogue. The mood/emotions of the character should be evident by the dialogue. The first thing actors do when they get a script is to cross out the parentheticals. Let actors act!

-- DON'T DIRECT. Don't use "we see" in the script. Don't put in camera movements or credit sequences. Don't tell us what song is playing in a scene unless it is critical to the action of a scene. Don't use "cut to". Again, keep it lean, mean...

-- ENDING. Make it strong, memorable.

That's it... We are excited by the writers from across the country who have submitted scripts. Some writers outside LA have written to tell us that they feel that all contests favor writers that live in LA. NOT true. We are looking for great writing, great scripts... period. As a matter of fact, LA writers sometimes write about similar subject matter and set their scripts in... LA. So it's refreshing to get scripts/stories that have unique settings and to read writers with unique voices.

Good luck to everyone!!


Anonymous said...

Is it possible to submit the script online and mail in a money order or is it required to pay for online-submissions via cc or paypal?

1-18-08 said...

Thanks, Portia and Storm staff. These are great tips. I wish I had read this posting before I submitted my screenplays. I realize now that there are a few scenes I could have cut out or rewritten. Oh well. I realize, of course, it's all a learning experience. We learn new things we each new script we write. It's one of the things that makes the craft of screenwriting so exciting.

Anonymous said...

Yep, you can e-mail the script and pay by money order. just e-mail us at

--Jim Cirile

Anonymous said...

Eric, we're ALL still learning. That's why I send my own scripts to my team for feedback and why I enrolled in the UCLA professional program. The more you know, well... the more you know ;)