Contest Readers Need Love Too

The Single Screenwriter has been pulled violently out of an endless string of bad dates pumping out script pages by a life altering revelation --

I'm in the wrong business.

I've sacrificed the security of those hefty by-monthly-paycheck careers and turned my back on any doors my higher education opened, in favor of the constant uphill battle of a screenwriting career. Retirement savings are for losers and wimps, not those of us driven by passion and vision.

I've lived like a hermit on only coffee and cheesecake, venturing out only to alienate the few non-Hollywood type people left in my life. I've done so willingly and obsessively with no regrets - until now.

What sparked this sudden need for a career change? A blog post that has the screenwriters of the world in a tizzy. It was posted by a reader for one of the bigger contests, and was very quickly removed when the poster didn't get the love she clearly deserved. The post offered a glimpse into the contest reader's modus operandi, and contained gems such as:
Last night I managed to get through 75 scripts in about 3 hours. How are you so speedy and brilliant, you might ask? Easy, the 10 page rule. It’s true. All those stories about “make sure you grab ‘em in the first 10 pages” are absolutely true.

Honestly, I can tell in 2-3 pages if you are a writer. Then I give you 10 pages to show if you are a GOOD writer. If you’ve kept me going that far, then I’ll read further to see how you develop your plot. If you understand how to construct a midpoint, battle scene, and satisfying ending. And if your voice continues throughout, or if it tuckered out when the heavy lifting came into play.

Of the 75 I read last night, I advanced 20 to the next round, which was actually more generous than I should have been. What can I say, I’m a bit of a pushover.

I kid you not. This was a very real blog post by a very real contest reader. A lively discussion about it is taking place as I type over at Done Deal, and a pdf of the full transcript can be downloaded at The Academy of Film Writing (note: you need to register to access the pdf).

Let's review the pertinent points:

- she got through 75 scripts in 3 hours
- 20 advanced

Now, I've been a contest reader. I provided notes, so the pay was a little higher. That being said, they pay wasn't great, and the time I spent on each script, meant that I was working for just about enough to cover my coffee costs. I read every word, no matter how bad the script, and provided thoughtful notes.

Boy was I doing it wrong! I need to thank the above quoted blog poster for pointing out the error of my ways. Seventy-five scripts at even ten bucks a pop adds up to seven hundred and fifty bucks. Not a bad rate for three hours work.

That needs repeating: seven hundred and fifty buck for three hours.

Instead of expressing outrage at the poster, we writers should be getting down on our knees and singing her praises for showing us where the real money in Hollywood is made. Forget sweating blood over a script and jump on the reader bandwagon. At 250 bucks an hour, it's enough to sway even the most dedicated writer.

Just use her handy-dandy script checklist and the money will start rolling in.

1) Title page is a little off? Chuck it.
2) Contact info that contains an actual physical address? Chuck it.
3) Is the story set outside of LA or NY? Chuck it.
4) Does the writer use adverbs? Chuck it.

That should take care of most of the scripts in under two minutes. Of the remaining:

5) Doesn't absolutely grab you in the first 3 pages? Chuck it.

Don't bother reading the remaining; just pass them onto the next round. Who wants to spend more than three minutes on a script?

That is how you make the big bucks. How could I have been so blind to this golden opportunity? Who cares about story, inciting incidents, turning points, character development, and all that other stuff?

But if you really want to maximize your profits, I suggest starting up a contest of your own and setting a nice entry fee of, say, fifty bucks a pop. Hire a bunch of readers off of Craig's List for 10 bucks a script and pocket a cool forty bucks. That way, if you still want to see that script of yours on the big screen, (you know, the one you slaved over for months or years), you'll be able to finance it yourself. But who is kidding whom - you'll be too busy spending all that money to care about that silly little script.

Yes, we writers should thank her for showing us the error of our ways. Now get out there and land yourself a sweet contest reading gig!

But if you're still hell bent on writing, then you must be stupid 'cause you're turning away free money stick to legitimate contests with proven track records of readers actually reading the material and giving half a shit about the effort writers put into their work like the Nicholl Fellowship. That's not to say that all other contests are shady, but do your homework on them and avoid this reader like a bad STD. I know several readers for various contests, and none of them are like this piece of work.

There are good contests out there and there are phenomenal contest readers.

And there are slime balls. Be warned, be smart, and keep writing.

Now you'll have to excuse me while I go set up my very own license to print money script contest.

great pic by movimente