Thursday, December 01, 2011

Coverage Ink/Writers on the Storm Newsletter 12-11

  1. JC's Opening Spiel
  2. Writers on the Storm 2011 WINNERS
  3. Welcome to Talentville -- Interview with Ben Cahan
  4. The People's Mic -- A Screenwriter's Experience with Occupy Wall Street
  5. The Screenwriter Stirkes Back -- DEAD IN THE ROOM

SOMEONE NAMED DEBBIE who alleges I know who she is (it's possible, I know a half-dozen Debbies) posted a very interesting comment on our blog recently:
Wondering how does the winning script stand compared to killer scripts on Producers' desks. I read some winning scripts, mostly trash.
She brings up a real point, and I believe deserves a real answer. For contests in general, that answer is: usually not very well. This is one of those things we call "truth" that can be somewhat uncomfortable, but it is what it is. What I mean is, contests are generally designed to seek out and discover new talent. All well and good, of course. And so the average contest (and there are freaking hundreds of them out there now) probably gets anywhere from 200 to 1,000 submissions (Writers on the Storm had just over 1,000 this year. Only a handful of the big guns do much better.) So what are the odds that out of, say, 500 scripts from unknown writers, you're going to find one that's just radiant? Alas, not as good as one might hope, and certainly not consistently. The reason is, many folks who are on the come are quickly weeded out of contest contention because they get signed, or they get internships/staffed on a TV show, or they develop relationships and start writing stuff on assignment, on spec or even (gasp) for money. The cream is frequently skimmed off the top. This may be hard to believe for many of us who slave away in the trenches for years, hoping to get somewhere with our writing yet hearing only crickets chirping instead of cash registers dinging. But it's the truth -- more often than not, if you're not breaking in, it's because your craft is not quite as good as you think/hope it is (yet.)

And so to quote one of my least favorite people, unindicted war criminal Donald Rumsfeld, "You go to war with the army you got." A few years back, I asked a buddy of mine -- a key judge for a very prestigious contest -- if I could read that year's winner. Afterwards, I commented to my pal something to the effect of, "Dude, what the eff?" He sighed, knowing full well the script was not exactly the bee's knees, and said, "Believe it or not, that was the best from what we had to work with."

Of course, "killer scripts on producers' desks" is tricky metric to judge by. You all know as well as I that there are plenty of crap scripts sent out by agents and managers. The reason is, if a client insists that his or her new spec go out, then in many cases, even if though the rep may signal his concern that the script ain't ready yet, it will usually go out. It's a dice roll; they might get lucky. When I was repped at WMA back in the day, my agent at the time explained to me the concept of "good enough," which is exactly what you think it is. In other words, not every script problem needs to be licked before it hits the town (of course, this was the '90s, and standards have gotten much higher since.) It just needs to be... good enough. And even recently, I have read scripts from major agencies that sold, which honestly did not impress me all that much. On the other hand, I have read a few that just blew me the hell away and renewed my faith and love for the screenwriting craft.

Which brings us to this year's winner. I am ecstatic to report that I LOVE this year's winning script. It truly is that needle in the haystack. The winning writers exhibit smarts and voice and craft. The read is a joy. Big things are ahead for these dudes. So I would definitely put this script right up there at major agency quality. And I cannot tell you how happy I am to be able to say that. Now that's zero guarantee that the town will respond; heck, it's a damn period piece. But I'm going to do what I can to make something happen for these writers. And THAT is why we enter contests -- in the hope of finding that passionate advocate, someone to finally help us. And to everyone else, keep writing and keep learning. I'm still seeing lots of basic, basic mistakes being made out there. It is up to all of you to up your game.


Speaking of upping your game, the Coverage Ink Spec Format & Style Guide 2012 is now available! Updated and expanded, this is the best Guide yet -- 89 pages of screenwriting expertise and snarky asides you can ingest in an hour. It's a 50,000-volt blast right to the ol' batteries. Even if you think you know all about format, this e-book may just shock you with how much you didn't know -- as well as drastically improve your craft. And if you think $3.95 is an absurdly low price to pay for such an infusion of goodness, well, you would be correct. But there it is. Order yours by emailing us at and say, "I want my Spec Format Guide 2012!" Makes a great (CHEAP) holiday gift!

And for those of you who want the ultimate holiday gift for the screenwriter in your life, get yourself a Coverage Ink gift certificate! Available in any amount from $10 up. Just imagine the look on your significant other's face when they open up a 1-hr CI telephone consultation ($45) or a fully-blown CI standard analysis ($129,) now featuring our newly expanded feedback grid. Hit us up at and get your merry on!

But enough of this jolly banter. It's newsletter time! In addition to the Writers on the Storm winners, we've got an interview with Ben Cahan from, an awesome new screenwriting community you should all check out (free!) Director Adam Pertofsky and writer Marjory Kaptanoglu give us the scoop on their amazing, must-see short film Dead in the Room, and firebrand screenwriter Jen Senko tells us about her experiences in the thick of it at Occupy Wall Street.

Wishing success and health to you all in this next year. Let's dial it up a notch, everyone!

Jim Cirile
founder, Coverage Ink
Writers on the Storm Screenplay Competition

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Anonymous said...

And to quote one of my least favorite people, Blake Snyder, "I think screenwriting contests are a colossal waste of time" (Pg. 173 "Save The Cat") - Maybe. Maybe not. But have to admit, of the dozen or so WGA writers I know, not one of them has ever even entered a screenwriting contest, let alone won one".

Admin said...

Tell that to Jeremy Shipp, whom we got signed to UTA earlier this year after he was runner-up in our contest. Next.


Anonymous said...

Hi, its Debbie in the house, woo woo...

Yes script contest are waste of time.
I take lots of sweat to contact winning writers from Nichol Tramp and Scripta-poo-poo-za and Assten... and read their shit scripts...
Their winning reads like bird shit stuk on leaves in the Niles.

Sorry for being gross.

But these winning scripts are for the birds who quack like quacks. They purple red and orange and yellow SUCKY SHIT!!!

Did anyone read the list of scripts Martin Scorcesse is reading right now? I rest my case ..woooooooo wooooooooo

Represent Represent

Anonymous said...


I know you know how to format scripts.

But why don't you tell us' the real shit about screenwriting?

Give us the real shit?

Tell like it is...

What makes a good shit piece of writing?

repping repping , debbie ,YA

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I havn't read one good script from these script contests.

Anonymous said...

In my past job, I worked with dozens of readers, all would-be writers working on their craft. They were bright, talented, determined...all with one other thing in common -- not a single significant script sale among them to this day.

It's tough. Writing is a long process, especially when trying to develop a style in a vacuum. Contests and coverage services help to fill that void.

When readers find themselves so overwhelmed by their own creative frustrations they can no longer give constructive criticism, those readers need to move on. Attacking other struggling writers in anonymous blogs is just a pathetic display of their own personal bitterness.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, if that's your real name.

It's all a waste of time. Just do what you are destined to do, stop listening to SCRIPT CONSULTANTS. Listen to your heart and destiny. Script Consultants want to become stars when they are nothing. They tweet and tweet and tweet and tweet and blog and blog and blog and post and post and post...

If they want to be popular and be a star, why don't they become an actor and write for TV?

Stop wasting time.

Judy the Butch that will
steal your girlfriend,LOL

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymouses,

Get a life. No Readers or Contests are designed to help, you. The reader, the writer and the Contest givers, are all(of course they are lol) lost in the space called dreamland.

ha, hope you are not those bitter readers out there, they don't get laid, just get married to an elephant and an ant and a lion,lol

Anonymous said...

Guys don't listen to these clowns. Work hard and believe. Dreams to come true. I got an agent and manager. So it does work. Stay strong and work hard.

Anonymous said...

Too bad instead of posting, she might finish 10 pages on her script.
LLO post, and some Jim.

Anonymous said...

Blake Synder is dead, first anonymous jackass, show some respect dude, why you badmouth him. He was the one that inspired me.

Anonymous said...

I'm just tired of hearing all this judgemental negativity from people who can't personally produce a script worth selling.

Get over yourselves!

Anonymous said...

Think some people are taking this a little too seriously.

I enter these contests for feedback and to see how I stack up against the other newbies. Yeah, I'm learning and it helps not doing it alone. Everyone has to start somewhere. And no matter how freaking smart or talented you think you are, you need to get your material read by people you hope can give you a little bit of objectivity. Got to go to a lot of sources, becausse some of it's gonna be Dumbass POV opinions. But some of it just might give you a clue on how to knock some of the dust out of your writing. Anyone thinking they can write a great script just based on their own instincts or that they can do it without feedback probably hasn't written a great script.

Anonymous said...

Christmas Gift to Jim, founder of Coverage Ink Storm Script Contest,

This gift will save the screenwriting world.

Is this link really a good gift to the script community from John August?

Anonymous said...

And for all of you willing to open a site sent to you by someone listing themselves as "anonymous", I have another one for you:


Anonymous said...


I agree, most script consultants are blind. Blind leading the blind.

Stay with the best.

All the script advice you need is under Google - "John August, screenplays, screenwriter" - he's the best and the only one I listen to. is the best. Clear, concise and a game changer. He has fans and the studios love him.

All the best.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ladies and Gents, wow, this John August podcast is making the round at the office. Everyone loves it. It's a revolutionary podcast about real screenwriting and what not to do. I'm sending this link to all the studios to share with their staff. And in fact, I'm talking to someone who might include this podcast in their film library.

Here is the intro to his now famous blog:

"Screenwriting gurus and so-called experts

Craig and John look at why the books and seminars purporting to teach screenwriting are generally terrible, trying to reduce the hard work of the craft to a series of formulas and templates.

It’s a rare podcast in which I sway Craig’s opinion whatsoever, but if you listen really carefully, I think he leaves the show just slightly less negative about screenwriting books than he started. It’s all about degrees with Craig.

Plus, we get a visit from the LAPD, follow-up on residuals, and a bit more about unionizing videogame writers."

Anonymous said...

Thanx, Ghosts of Screenwriting Past, Present and (Hopefully) Future. You inspire me. Now, who is that knocking on my door? Is it...

Bah. Just some undigested Happy Meal. Humbug.

Anonymous said...


But Bill Murray Scrooge was the worst holiday film.

This new generation don't know or care about Scrooge. Get with it Anonymous.

Jim, you read any good Christmas spec scripts. lol BOOOORING!


Admin said...

Obviously Mazin and August know whereof they speak, and they're right in general, but also kind of missing the big picture. Of course if you are a slave to any one template or formula or book, you are limiting yourself and your writing will suffer. On the other hand, I have had more than one meeting where the producer said to me he wants the screenplay he's hiring me to write to follow Blake Snyder beat by beat. Do those guys need to know Blake Snyder? No they do not, because they're both big shots. But for the rest of us, you're damn right seminars and books are important. Because without them, many of us do not have a clue. Are there lame books out there? yes there are, but here are 5 that are NOT lame: The Writer's Journey, Save the Cat! Writing Screenplays that Sell, Breakfast With Sharks and How to Write Screenplays that Sell the Ackerman Way. For those guys to dismiss an entire world of screenwriting education because they personally don't need it is idiotic. Many do.

As for the folks who are maintaining no one gets anywhere from contests, grow up. I chaired a panel at the Screenwriting Expo this year and four of the five managers and agents said they pay attention to contest winners. UTA signed Writers on the Storm's number two last year. Film Engine signed a guy from Script Pipeline. I'm getting calls and e-mails from reps every day wanting to read Wright or Wrong (this year's winner.) Debbie, or whatever your name is, yes there are plenty of crap scripts out there. So what? The cream rises. Next.



Anonymous said...

Hello Anonymous Chumps. This be da Grinch. Don't fool with no screenwriting contests. I've only won three, one of which got my green ass a manager, and two others which got me 10 large. My Grinch ass soon be on da Black List. Chump change. Who wansa be on some black list? Don't fool wid it.