Screenwriting Judging Criteria

  • Scripts must utilize proper FORMATTING according to standard industry rules.  For Specs, either follow the format of the show if found, or use standard industry style (like a feature).  This includes using the proper font, size and spacing, as well as avoiding things like editing and camera directions (this is not a shooting script).  The format of your script is your first impression, and scripts that lack proper formatting lack professionalism. Formatting tells an experienced reader they are in good hands and they can focus on the story.  Scripts with poor formatting will be penalized.

  • WRITING SKILL as shown through Character, Dialogue, Style, and Structure will be the primary determining factor for score in all categories.

    • CHARACTER: Create distinct personalities, compelling, believable, multi-layered, and consistent. Protagonists and antagonists must have clear and active goals.  Teleplays and Features should have developed B-story characters with goals of their own.

    • DIALOGUE: Demonstrate natural, succinct, and distinctive voices, unique to each character. Dialogue should flow well, move the story forward, reveal character and be exciting to read.  Exposition should be handled ingeniously and not weigh down the script unnecessarily.

    • STYLE: Showcase overall quality in the writing including readability, punctuation, grammar, spelling and delivery of electrifying cinematic tension.  Tone should be coherent and consistent.  Scripts should revolve around a theme, but deliver it subtly.  Give your audience something think about. Writers should display their own voice and personality and give the reader a vivid screen picture in their minds.

    • STRUCTURE: Illustrate exceptional pacing and plotting of the story including understanding and utilization of the three-act model or other effective structural paradigms.  Features and Teleplays should grab the reader’s attention by page ten.  Scripts should have difficult obstacles and clear turning points that accelerate the action, energy and jeopardy of the plot.

  • Scripts will also be scored for ORIGINALITY.  Features, Shorts and Pilots should aim for a clear and unique premise, building fresh scenes and sequences and unpredictable but fully planted character revelations and plot twists.  Never underestimate the power of a novel ‘hook.’  For Specs and Retro-Specs, scripts will be judged for the original way in which the characters and settings are utilized by the writer and what the writer brings to the table.  Simply taking a comic book and rewriting it as teleplay will not be rewarded.  Also, do not focus on the tiny specifics of a property, there is the possibility the script will be read by someone with only a cursory knowledge of the source material.  Concentrate instead on making a compelling, self-contained, accessible script, one that could be enjoyed by anyone.

  • Finally, scripts will be accessed for their SCIFIntegration, the incorporation of science fiction into the plot and the world of the script.  It is not enough just to set a drama in space, writers should be crafting a bold, fresh world to explore specific themes available only in that landscape.  This is not to say that scripts must be dominated by science fiction tropes – HER, VIDEODROME and PRIMER are good examples of SciFi films that create a specific world without being set long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away. 

Note, The Other Worlds Austin SciFi Screenwriting Contest is a celebration of writing skill, not feasibility of production.  Although a basic understanding of what is possible in the industry is encouraged, entrants will not be penalized for writing big-budget scripts.  Our winners are not selected by production companies looking for low-budget scripts to option, subject to their own prejudices and preconceptions.  Our prizes are meant to encourage writers to continue to write in this genre.  We fully acknowledge that sometimes scripts are written as writing exercises and for fun.  These scripts are just as worthy of being awarded prize money.

© 2014 OWA SciFi Film Fest, LLC