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Script Showcases

There have lately been, in the aspiring/amateur/emerging screenwriting world, a growing number of script “showcases” designed to help writers get their material in front of decision makers, without having to pay or kiss anybody’s ass.

Above is not a screen cap from one of those, but a sampling of loglines from the “top scripts” on the commercial Black List website—where writers can pay to have their scripts evaluated by professional readers.

I don’t want to mention any of the showcases because I was lucky to be on a couple of them. The organizers have been hardworking, passionate and generous to a fault.

So far, the number of emails I have received from my presence on two lists—from fans or pros, or anybody—has been exactly zero. (It could very well be my material at fault.)

I’ve also had the experience of surveying the showcases, as producer would, trying to find a cool project, or a talented writer, or just make contact with somebody who seems interesting.

These showcases are all badly in need of curation.

I understand the impulse to try to help as many people as possible. But when your showcase has upwards of 70 projects, it is not helping anybody.

These lists need to be thought of like a restaurant, not a supermarket.

A supermarket is—we have everything. You want strawberries? Got it. Milk? Got it? Spices? Got it. Rat poison? Got it. Cooking, cleaning, batteries, a pharmacy—come get everything.

A restaurant is—we are going to give you an experience. You will have good food, good service, pleasant ambiance, and enjoy your company and dining for a limited time.

A restaurant does not (with some exceptions) give a menu of 70 entrees.

No—you have a limited, thoughtful curation of choices. Do you like steak or tofu? Fish or veggies? There is also a theme (the style/nationality of cuisine).

A little bit of choice is good. You feel like you can take care of yourself and find an experience that is best for you.

Too much choice is overwhelming and stressful. You worry about making the wrong choice, and it takes so much time, you can’t decide, and you waste time during what should be a special experience. How can you have confidence that you picked the best meal from 70 choices? The night is full of regret, not enjoyment.

When I look at these showcases, first of all, far too many of the projects are obviously uncommercial or have loglines that I call “plot soup.”

A logline should express a concept and a rendition of that concept that intrigues. It should have a simplicity and clarity that shows the writer knows how to entertain.

When a logline is “plot soup,” it’s got zombies and a kidnapping and a love story and space aliens and time travel—it’s about everything, and thus nothing.

It also takes too long to read more than a handful of loglines—even good ones. You just get tired. Every year the annual, actual Black List (the year’s best unproduced scripts, voted on by actual executives) has a lot of really cool loglines, but it still can be a chore to read.

So I’m sorry to say I can’t make it through any of these showcases. There are too many lame loglines, and I lose confidence that any of them will be good, or that I will be able to find the “diamond in the rough.”

And it’s a shame, because I think the organizers are not making the most of their obvious passion and effort to help writers.

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