COVERSCRIPT TIP: Contests

Over the twenty-plus years I have been covering, analyzing, rewriting and ghost writing screen stories, I have also been, and still am, a judge for screenplay as well as teleplay contests.

I can assure you that the winners are chosen because their screenplays or TV scripts not only contain great stories, but are also written to industry standards.

Therefore, putting your best foot forward in all the story elements is a very good idea.

Is the premise original, or perhaps a fresh new take on an old idea?

It’s essential to use the proper format whether for sitcom style (one camera or multi camera – each has its own format rules), or one-hour teleplay, or screenplay style.

Presentation also includes making sure there are no typos – believe me, readers will notice and get annoyed if there are too many of them.  Ideally, best not to have any.

Good idea to also make certain that your screenplay story is shown as visually as possible.  Film is a visual medium, not a verbal one.

Dialog in screenplays should be at a minimum – except for a very occasional longish speech and that only if necessary to the story, where it fits both the situation and the character.

Dialog should ideally be no more than four to five lines long.

Make sure your characters are interesting and engaging, particularly your protagonist and your antagonist…and if there are character arcs, they better be believable.

If it’s a comedy screenplay, or a sitcom, make sure your reading audience will laugh out loud just by reading the words on the page… if the comedy doesn’t produce that effect it’s not much of a comedy.

If there’s a sad scene, does it produce a lump in the throat or even tears from the reader?

If it’s a suspenseful scene or a thrilling scene, does the reader actually feel the tension, the thrill?

In short, do the written words on the pages evoke the emotional responses that are commonly associated with what’s going on in a particular scene or with that genre?

Your story won’t be in the top echelon if it doesn’t.

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2 thoughts

  1. I wrote a screenplay in 1998, copyright, registered with Screen Actors Guild West, mailed it yo myself, and tried my best to market it for over two years. Received a great deal of responses, but I guess it just wasn’t the right time. Drop the bomb on it to pursue other things. Now I’m a Social Worker, and thinking about picking up where I left off.

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