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Saturday, August 22, 2009

BACK STAGE AT A CONTEST DEUX: A Further Look at How Screenplays Are Chosen at a Contest

I thought I'd continue on with some more examples of how scripts get to the top at contests. If anything, it should tell you that quality is not the only thing that comes into play, that other issues are also factored in.
For one contest, I and some of the other major readers would get together with the person running the contest and try to take a list of 15 to 20, the ones that had received the top scores, and determine which should be among the top ten. Of course, there are often five to six that are just obvious and little argument is going to be made over their making it. But politics can sometimes come into play for the others.
After a couple of years at this, I learned a trick. After talking to many of the readers off and on during the course of the contest, I realized there would always be one, maybe two, that I did not like and did not think should be anywhere near the top ten, yet a couple of the other readers thought the screenplay was the best thing since sliced bread. I also knew that there was going to be one or two that I and another thought were genius, pure genius, I tells ya, that others thought should be burned and have salt poured on their remains.
What I learned to do is not to put up much of an argument on the one I didn't care for (and after all, I've been wrong many a time and maybe the one I hated was a work of great art) so that when mine came up for consideration I could chime in and say, Look, I voted for yours, you should at least give me mine.
This happened one year when the argument got a little contentious over the subject matter of the script (and actually not so much the subject matter as the way the subject matter was treated) and there was a great deal of tension in the discussion. But I said, Hey, I didn't put up this much of a fight over yours, and when I said that, the script I was pushing got included in the top ten.
A correlation to this is in another contest where there weren't enough screenplays that enough readers thought deserved to be in the top 20 and I and some of the others would be asked to name one we thought should be up there that wasn't yet and I'd pick a favorite I felt had been overlooked.
So the lesson here is that it's always helpful to have a script that at least one person really wants to champion. Of course, you can't know that before hand (it's like the saying in bridge, if the King is a singleton, lead the Ace), but still.

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