RED RIGHT HAND 40 12 00 20 16 02 16 52 02 50 44 46 30 32 20 00 46 38 16 42

*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.



So, as previously mentioned, my House script was a finalist in the Screenwriting Expo competition and one of the prizes was a free Expo badge. Being that Expo badges are 125 bones, that's good. I probably was going to take a pass on the whole thing.

I decided that I was going to try the CS Open, held by Creative Screenwriting and Coverage, Ink. In it, there are several (eight or more) first rounds where writers are given a prompt (as you will see below) and have 90 minutes to write a scene that hits the beats of the prompt in some way. Over the course of three days several hundred writers give this a go. It's a great exercise and I had a lot of fun. I even did it twice...well actually three times.

Each scene is written on special paper with no-repro blue lines that guides you into writing in script format with character cues, dialogue margins, etc. You turn these in and later on (and this is the cool part to me) you get them back with scores in four categories that add up to a max of 100. You also get some comments from the reading judge.

The top 10% (as determined by a score cut off, which this year was 90, up from 89 last year and 87 prior that that, as we were told by Jim Cirile, the guy running the thing) go on to a second round held Saturday night. From that round, ten people go to a third round Sunday morning and from that three people go one more time and their scenes are performed at the Expo closing ceremonies and voted on by the audience.

My first attempt got me an 88, which I though was decent. My second, unplanned attempt (which we'll get to in more detail in my next post (hey, my first posting series)) got a 96 and entry into the second round. As I write this, I don't know what my second round score is other than it didn't crack the top ten. I don't hold out a lot of hope on that one. It was kind of a bitch, I thought.

I got there for the first session of the third day, Saturday, at nine a.m. An unholy thing indeed for me. Thus I was not bright-eyed nor bushy-tailed. In fact, I'd been up for quite some while at that point, but I was not at all fatigued so I guess I was at least well-lit eyed, and somewhat-lively-tailed.

Now for your entertainment, edification and/or mental ipecac, I present to you the first of two or three hastily written scenes.

Your PROTAGONIST wins a sweepstakes and takes TWO FRIENDS along on the grand prize vacation trip. But all is not as it seems. Write the scene in which the protagonist discovers the real reason he or she won the prize - an insidious plot to get back at the protagonist from an old enemy. How you handle this scene, the era, setting and style -- dramatic or comedy -- is entirely up to you.

  • SIMON, JACKIE and LIZA (30's) ENTER, marveling at the grandeur and at CARBUNKLE, the elderly librarian on a free-floating anti-gravity platform. He's tending the stacks.
  • LIZA
  • We win three days vay-kay in the year 2071 and the first thing Simon wants to do is go to the library.
  • He didn't complain when you made us sit through the haute couture show in Paris.
  • Stuff looks exactly the same as it did sixty ...uh ....four(?) years ago.
  • One-armed tin foil dinner jackets never go out of style.
  • Simon and Jackie share a laugh.
  • LIZA
  • Yeah, you two are made for each other.
  • Simon and Jackie share a quick kiss. They're just too damn cute. Carbunkle floats down on his platform.
  • You must be the chrono-tourists that called.
  • Right. I'm Simon, my wife Jackie, and our friend Liza.
  • Well, you have almost unlimited access to the stacks.
  • Almost.
  • There is a prohibition against looking up yourself or family members.
  • All nod in acknowledgment. Carbunkle floats back up.
  • LIZA
  • If you'll excuse, I'm going to go check out the last sixty-four years of Vogue. And who gives a prize of sixty-four years in the future? They couldn't round it to a more aesthetically pleasing seventy-five?
  • Liza flounces off, leaving Simon and Jackie to their own devices.
  • You were going to look yourself up, weren't you?
  • (simultaneously)
  • I'm that predictable?
  • You know what might still be fun?
  • Box score for the next ten world series?
  • That. And let's look up Liza. We can see if she ever actually marries that Eon guy.
  • (considering)
  • Umm...yeah, long as we don't look up how or when she dies or anything.
  • I wouldn't want to know that.
  • Simon and Jackie step up to a search terminal.
  • (as he types)
  • Okay, search we'll get wedding announcements and, exclude obituaries...and...enter.
  • (pause)
  • Hardcopy only.
  • Carbunkle floats down with a laminated newspaper.
  • I believe you're looking for this?
  • That was fast.
  • The search engine feeds results directly to the old noggin.
  • Carbunkle hands the paper to Simon. Stays as he and Jackie flip though the pages.
  • Page C-2.
  • Here it is. Liza McCann sentenced to 25 years for murder?
  • Jackie yanks the paper away.
  • ...of Simon James -- OHMIGOD! That's-- She killed-- Is gonna kill--
  • Simon takes the paper back.
  • (reading aloud)
  • McCann stabbed Mister James 32 times, allegedly over an affair gone bad when James would not leave his wife. When sentenced, McCann repeated the same words over and over again. "He said it would never happen."
  • Carbunkle starts laughing.
  • What the hell is your problem?
  • You don't remember me? I know I'm a wrinkled as your ball--
  • Carbunkle?
  • You didn't win jack! Probably the only thing in your life you didn't win. I brought you here. Illegally, of course, but I'm dying and I don't care. I got my revenge. After you getting the scholarship, the girl, the promotions, when I finally devised my plan in 2009, you died. I never got my chance to shove it in your face and pull it out the other side. Then I realized how I can get you back. I can steal all the joy out of your last couple of years.
  • You dick.
  • Yes. And now your vacation is o-- oh-- I got--
  • (having an attack)
  • I got-- that-- in-- just in-- time.
  • Carbunkle drops dead. Simon stares at the body as Jackie goes off and gets Liza.
  • JACKIE (O.S.)
  • Liza! Liza, we have to go!
  • LIZA (O.S.)
  • Why what is it?
  • Simon leaves Carbunkle on the floor and all three EXIT.
  • Just something that mangy old librarian said would happen.
  • LIZA
  • What?
  • Don't worry about it. It'll never happen.


Structure - 24
Dialogue - 20
Style - 21
Originality - 23
Total - 88
COMMENTS: This is a very creative answer to the prompt. An earlier mention of Carbunkle, as a young man by Simon, would help make Carbunkle seem less tacked-on. But still, good job. Cleverly done.

So, yeah...I was reasonably pleased with myself. Not a bad score for something that I thought was a little hackneyed and cliche even while I was writing it, but when you've only got 90 minutes and you spend 10-15 staring at the blank page trying to come up with a concept and a little plot, you don't have time to be overly picky. I got done with about 20 minutes to spare and decided to give it just a once over, mostly for typos...or rather pencilos. I didn't want to over think it and my hand was in pain because a) I never learned to hold a pencil properly, 2) the only thing I've hand-written in the last however long are rent checks.

It would be at least a couple of hours before the score would be ready, so I went about amusing myself. I had only intended to go back and retrieve my scene, but fate conspired to have me go at it again.

In the next thrilling episode, how that happened, an electrifying bank robbery, a score of 96 and some other bits.
©2024 Michael Patrick Sullivan
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