Cyberspace Open

Wading in to Competition

A few weeks back, I entered the annual Cyberspace Open screenwriting tournament put on by the people that produce the wonderful Creative Screenwriting magazine and hold the Screenwriting Expo in Los Angeles.

For the first round, the rules of the competition were simple — write a 3 to 5 page scene, based on a premise provided, over the weekend. Those who made it to the quarterfinals would then have to do the same thing with another premise, but within a 16 hour period (overnight). The finalists would then need to write a 3 to 5 page scene in only 1.5 hours.

Why such a tight timeline?

Ostensibly, the tight constraints were meant to simulate the conditions that exist in the “real world” of Hollywood. Often times writers will be given the assignment of rewriting a scene over a weekend, overnight, or even during production (if say a scene just isn’t working on the day, and a Director wants it rewritten — stat)!

But wait!

There’s a significant difference, however, between this real world scenario and the rules of the competition. Can you spot it?

In the real world you’re rewriting a known product. This devilish competition requires that you come up with your own original idea and characters for your scene (25% of the score was based on your scene’s “originality”).

As most writers know, developing and fleshing out a unique concept alone can take days. So this competition was deceptive in its difficulty.

The Premise

Here’s the premise we were given:

“Your PROTAGONIST is in a jam. He (or she) had been relying on deception in order to further his objective, but his ENEMY has figured out the ruse. Write the scene in which your protagonist’s LOVE INTEREST confronts him with this information acquired from the enemy — while staging it in a tricky or dangerous situation.”

Tricky situation is right!

The Results

Fortunately I had a generous judge from the Paula Abdul school of scoring, and made it to the quarterfinals.

My total score was: 95/100 (Structure: 24/25 | Style: 24/25 | Dialogue: 23/25 | Originality: 24/25). This year, you needed a score of 93 to advance. Apparently no one has ever earned a perfect score.

If anyone’s interested, you can read my scene here.

Round 2 — the overnighter — presented some unexpected difficulties. But that is a story for another time…