The Usefulness of Assignments & Deadlines
Trying to be productive during the Covid-19 pandemic and statewide Stay-at-Home order, I entered a screenwriting contest sponsored by FilmFesto.
The contest was a 5-Day Mash Up Challenge where you have 5 days to create, complete, and turn in a short screenplay of no more than 10 pages that meshes elements of two genres. The contest assigns the two genres. They are emailed to you after you register for the contest.
Cost & Prize
The entry fee was $10.00. The prize: You get a video of your script being Table-Read by local actors.
A Table-read is exactly as it implies. Actors sit around a table (or attend a recorded ZOOM meeting) and read your script aloud. One actor will read the scene headings and scene description, other actors will be assigned characters in your script and read that character’s dialogue.
It’s a neat thing to witness, and fun to participate in.
For my Mash Up, I was assigned: Horror/Thriller and Sports.
While my genres of choice are Horror and Thriller. I know very little about most sports. I’m not an avid sports fan. I watched a few baseball games and soccer matches in college and played the obligatory sports in school as a kid. I hike and kayak as an adult – but that’s it.
Five days doesn’t offer much time for research – but I’m just glad I wasn’t assigned Comedy.
Most writers are notorious procrastinators, myself included. But, since the Covid Lockdown, I was stuck home with ample time to write.
And this challenge intrigued me for three reasons:
- Deadline was short;
- Meshing two genres would be fun;
- 10 pages or less was doable.
Most of us procrastinators excel when given an actual assignment and a deadline. Our reputations would be on the line. And we are quite often extremely competitive. Our chosen craft is competitive. The industry for that craft is competitive.
So on with the challenge.
With only 5 days to complete a screenplay and with no in-depth knowledge of sports, I can only spare 1 day for research.
I made a list of sports. Removed the obvious sports of: Football, baseball, basketball, soccer & hockey. Why? Because those are too popular. The average reader or movie-goer have knowledge of those sports. Hard to entertain them with something NEW about those sports.
I considered lesser known sports, such as, archery, caving, rock climbing, fishing. They were more solitary sports = less characters involved.
Of those sports, I chose caving. Considered writing a ghost story involving an avid caver, recovering from a caving injury, who gets involved in helping a sheriff save a young boy who is trapped inside a cave.
Researched common and severe caving injuries, recovery times, states with the most caves, gear used in caving, articles about cavers surviving cave-ins, etc.
I allowed 7 hours for that research: 9am to 4pm. Printed out documents and highlighted caving lingo.
Then I allowed myself 5 hours to develop characters and plot out my story. For this I researched the house my character would be recuperating in, a map of the state the story would be set in, who would be my hero, who would be my supporting cast.
My sport would be Caving. My Horror/Thriller element would be a twist: both the sheriff and the boy would be ghosts, long dead. They caver would be the one to finally recover their bodies.
That was all for Day 1.
Day 2 would be writing day.
On Day 2 I wrote 6 pages, soaring through most of my story, however, I encountered –
My story was mostly character driven, very slow action. Too BORING for a 10 page short.
So back to square 1.
Picking a new sport and new Horror/Thriller element. Plus research. After research 3 days would be wasted.
New sport: Ice Fishing!
New Horror/Thriller element: Two contestants are fishing for human souls.
The story elements: The ice represents the divide between the two worlds. There would be 3 rounds to the ice fishing contest. Round 1 and 2 would be for certain types of souls. Souls succumbing to temptation of a deadly sin. The fishing lures used by contestants would represent the sin. Panties for Lust. Human eyeball for Envy. Rolled cash for Greed, and a Mirror for Vanity. The contestants themselves had succumbed to a sin: one Wrath, one Pride.
Round 3 would be: Winner Take All. That round would be a fight to the death. Contest judge is DEATH. Winner gets a scythe and Death’s hooded black robe.
Now I was STOKED!
Active story. Cool elements. Minimal characters. Contained setting. Great mash up of the sport and Horror/Thriller!
Did I Finish?
Yep. Finished the story in time. Completing it in 7 written pages.
Did I win?
Don’t know. Top 20 will be announced April 25th. The winner will be announced May 1st.
Check my blog on those dates to see if I made the cut.
Even if I don’t win the contest, I win as a writer, because I now have another completed script. A completed script can always be edited and polished. It’s another item in my writing portfolio. Yipee!