SCREENPLAY COMPETITION 18

TREATMENT & TRAILER

ALL ENTRANTS WILL RECEIVE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK.

As MANIFF is never one to follow the pack, this year we are taking a different approach with our screenplay competition and asking our entrants to send in a treatment and trailer (see below for details). 10 treatment and trailer finalists will be asked to send in their full screenplay. Writing a treatment can be off-putting for some and writing a trailer is actually very difficult but we feel the time saved in reading a treatment and trailer (as opposed to a full script) is much better put to use on the constructive feedback all entrants will be given. So much so, we are confident that you will not find better feedback for your entrance fee in any other screenplay competition in the world!

Finalists will also receive in depth notes on their script (on top of the feedback for treatment & trailer entry).

ENTRANTS ARE TO SUBMIT THE FOLLOWING:  

TITLE:

GENRE:

A LOGLINE:  1-4 sentences (a concise summary of your screenplay)

A TREATMENT: 4 pages maximum (A summary of your screenplay, like a short story) **

A TRAILER: 6 pages maximum (in screenplay format) ***

** LEAVE OUT the ending. Part of the judging will be how interested the reader is in wanting to know how your story ends.

*** ONLY USE what is in your screenplay. No additional voice overs (like you would get in an actual cinema trailer).

10 FINALISTS will be asked to send their FULL SCREENPLAY.

THE WINNING SCRIPT WILL RECIEVE:     

·       World class notes and objective analysis given by four leading industry experts.

·       Introduction of your script to international literary agents.

·       Introduction of your script to an established exec producer of independent film.

·       Introduction of your script to an established director of independent film.

·       The screenwriter(s) will be featured in a leading writer’s magazine alongside a breakdown of their script as to why it was chosen.

·       MANIFF Laurels and exclusive award.

WHY TREATMENT & TRAILER?

Screenwriting is one of the most difficult crafts to master and there is always room for improvement. Whatever improvements are needed in a story or whatever craft skills are lacking in the writer will be evident in the treatment and trailer.

Summarising your screenplay in a treatment and especially a trailer also forces you to focus on the core of your story thus making it all the more easy for you to spot trivial or unnecessary scenes.

CLARITY

The most underrated reason as to why screenplays fall apart or simply do not work is lack of clarity in the writer as to what they are writing about. This applies to professionals too; many a capable writer have fallen into an abyss and literally ‘lost the plot’. Lack of clarity is also one of the fastest ways to destroy an aspiring writer’s confidence during the writing process.

CLARITY:             what’s it about? (And what’s it really about?)
CONTENT:          what happens?

Does the author know what their screenplay is about (on the surface and on a deeper level)?
Does the author know what the most significant events/ moments are in their screenplay? 

These are the two fundamental questions a screenwriter must ask. And again, the answers will be evident in the treatment and trailer.

The clearer you are in being able to dissect your story into separate parts to study objectively, the sharper your skill when it comes to fixing problems in your script and the more receptive and less defensive you will be towards constructive criticism (feedback).

POINTERS

What follows is not a lesson in screenwriting. There is no mention of character arcs, consequences, dramatic irony, tension and so forth. These are merely a few pointers to consider. Firstly, let’s look at some definitions…

PROTAGONIST

In simple terms: the lead role (usually the person on the poster).

THE WRESTLER (2008); ERIN BROKOVITCH (2000); DEADPOOL (2016); ALFIE (1966); AS GOOD AS IT GETS (1997); FORREST GUMP (1994); THE REVENANT (2015); THE SHINING (1980); SHANE (1953); ROCKY (1976); DIRTY HARRY (1971); UNCLE BUCK (1989) all have a single lead role.

MULTI PROTAGONIST

In simple terms: more than one lead role.

THE PRESTIGE (2006); DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012); ABOUT A BOY (2002); THELMA AND LOUISE (1991); LETHAL WEAPON (1987); DUMB AND DUMBER (1994); WHEN HARRY MET SALLY (1989) all have two lead roles.

A multi-protagonist movie with more than two protagonists is quite rare, some examples are:

THE HANGOVER (2009); ZOMBIELAND (2009); THE THREE AMIGOS (1986); GHOSTBUSTERS (1984); SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959); SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL (1987); THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984); L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997)

How do I know if I’m writing a multi-protagonist movie?

This is not a fool proof technique but more than likely, when describing your movie if it starts with:

Two outlaws are…’ or ‘Three scientists begin to…’ or ‘A love triangle ensues when…’

Anything that refers to more than one person, whereas if you have:

‘A teenager and his buddies…’ or ‘An amateur hockey team…’

You are probably writing an ensemble movie.    

ENSEMBLE

In simple terms: a group of people act as one. The ensemble as a collective is the Star of the show.

OCEANS 11 (2001); BRIDESMAIDS (2011); RESERVOIR DOGS (1992); POLICE ACADEMY (1984); THE GOONIES (1985); THE FULL MONTY (1997); THE OUTSIDERS (1983); THE BREAKFAST CLUB (1985); THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960)

Although ensemble, these movies still have to be single or multi protagonist.

OCEAN’S 11 and BRIDESMAIDS are single protagonist movies (George Clooney in Ocean’s 11; Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids) while RESERVOIR DOGS and THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN are multi protagonist (Tim Roth & Harvey Keitel in Reservoir Dogs; Yul Brynner & Steve McQueen in Magnificent seven).

MULTI STORYLINE

In simple terms: more than one story of equal importance.

PULP FICTION (1994); SIN CITY (2005); CRASH (2004); MAGNOLIA (1999); PARENTHOOD (1989); CLOUD ATLAS (2012); NASHVILLE (1975); THE HOURS (2002); TRAFFIC (2000); LOVE ACTUALLY (2003)

Am I writing a Multi-Storyline Movie?

The simple test to find out if you are writing an MSM is to ask if you can sum your movie up in one clear concrete (not abstract) sentence. For example, there are many who would incorrectly state that L.A. CONFIDENTIAL or GLEN GARRY GLEN ROSS are examples of Multi-storyline movies, but in extremely simple terms: 

GLEN GARRY GLEN ROSS is about four salesmen competing to keep their job.

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL is about three cops working the ‘night owl’ case.

Whereas CRASH or PULP FICTION; THE GODFATHER PART 2; MAGNOLIA; PARENTHOOD; LOVE ACTUALLY; GRAND CANYON; TRAFFIC; SIN CITY and so on cannot be summed up in one straight concrete sentence. They could be summed up only in thematic or abstract terms.

Multi-storyline movies have a common thread running through each story, tying them together. For example: the common thread in PULP FICTION is ‘second chances’ and this is evident in each separate storyline.

GENRE

While there are many different Genres (Sci-Fi; Western; Action; Horror; Romance etc.), there are actually only two working levels of Genre in screenwriting: Experiential and Aesthetic genre.

EXPERIENTIAL GENRES
are types of story that make us feel a certain way, causing a certain biological reaction. For example a Horror movie may terrify us, increasing our levels of Cortisol (the stress hormone); a Comedy makes us laugh, releasing endorphins into the body; a Thriller may make us tense and our knuckles white as we grip to the arm rests in the cinema; a Drama (a story about emotional healing) may give us a metaphorical lump in our throat and so on.

AESTHETIC GENRE
concerns itself with the way a movie looks and sounds or certain techniques that are used, for instance we know when we are watching a Period drama because the characters may mince around in funny, frilly clothes saying things like ‘thou dost sayeth to mine sweet betrothed’ and you’re thinking what the hell language are they speaking; or a tumbleweed rolls past a dusty plain and a cowboy steps forward with an Indian Chief in the background, and unless it is an old music video of The Village People, we are fairly certain we are watching a Western. In a Documentary we would expect factual accounts; in a Musical we would expect some songs. War movies; Sci-fi— we know it when we see it—these are Aesthetic genres, whereas movies classed as Biopic or Historical are redundant, useless classifications as they tell us nothing about the look or how the story may biologically or emotionally move us. 

There are some who talk about genre-less movies or are fool enough to think such a thing exists. So let me state this loud and clear: there is no such thing as a genre-less movie. If your story concerns people (or personifications) having some form of relationship or struggle then by default, your work is Drama. This is a common fault you will find mainly in independent cinema where there are some who think it somehow un-artistic or contrived to pigeon-hole their art into some marketing bracket.

Not being clear as to what genre you are writing in is one of the biggest mistakes a screenwriter can make.  

TIPS ON WRITING YOUR TRAILER

STEP 1:   PLACE and TIME

Firstly, place the reader into the world of your story. If you have written a present day thriller or a western; if your screenplay is set in the future or on another planet or a 1980’s trailer park or council estate— whatever the case may be, make sure the reader is aware of this right away (unless you are withholding information for a reason i.e. a twist/ reveal).

STEP 2:   the LEAD ROLE(s)

Introduce your lead role(s) as soon as possible. Make sure there is no confusion as to who is the lead role (or roles, if a multi-protagonist story). Try and give a sense of why a reader would be interested in following this person/ people.

STEP 3:   PRIMARY and SECONDARY STORIES

In very simple terms, we could say a screenplay is made up of two separate major storylines: The ACTION story and the EMOTION story. One of these storylines will be the PRIMARY storyline which will feature in the majority of the trailer.

The ACTION storyline follows whatever GENRE you are writing in.
The EMOTION storyline is about the most important RELATIONSHIP in the story.

EXAMPLES:

TEMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY (1991)

ACTION:             Terminator protecting young John Connor from the T1000.
EMOTION:          surrogate father/ son relationship between Terminator and John.

The ACTION storyline is the PRIMARY story and would feature most in the trailer, whereas…

LETHAL WEAPON (1987)

ACTION:             Riggs and Murtaugh on the hunt for drug smugglers.
EMOTION:          Relationship between an old cop and his new partner.

The EMOTION storyline is the PRIMARY story.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (2016)

ACTION:             An uncle is now guardian for his young nephew when the boy’s dad dies.
EMOTION:          Uncle’s relationship to his traumatic past and his ex-wife

The ACTION storyline is the PRIMARY story.

SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)

ACTION:             Clarice on the hunt for Buffalo Bill.
EMOTION:          Relationship between Clarice and Hannibal Lector.

The EMOTION storyline is the PRIMARY story.

STAR WARS (1977)

ACTION:             Luke and co. rescue the princess and take on the evil Empire.
EMOTION:          Relationship between Luke and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The ACTION storyline is the PRIMARY story.

GRAN TORINO (2008)

ACTION:             Walt Kowalski stands up to a local gang that have the neighbourhood terrified.
EMOTION:          Walt’s relationship with his teenage neighbour.

The EMOTION storyline is the PRIMARY story.

BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)

ACTION:             A teenager goes back in time to 1955 and meets his teenage parents.
EMOTION:          Relationship between Marty and George Mcfly

The ACTION storyline is the PRIMARY story.

SUBPLOTS

Are other, less important storylines (usually other relationships) that you can briefly include in your trailer if you so wish. For example:

ROCKY (1976)

ACTION:             An unknown boxer gets a shot at the world title.
EMOTION:          Relationship between Rocky and Adrian.
SUBPLOT:           Relationship between Rocky and trainer, Mick.
SUBPLOT:           Relationship between Adrian and her oppressive brother, Paulie.
SUBPLOT:           Relationship between Rocky and Paulie.

The ACTION storyline is the PRIMARY story.

OBJECTIVITY: FINDING THE GOLD DUST

Style and voice aside, knowing what is endearing about your story and emphasising these aspects is what makes one story shine brighter than another… 

LETHAL WEAPON

Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) is suicidal, wild, unpredictable and an expert at his job.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is the most anguished man on earth.

ROCKY

Although Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) is charming and has a big heart, the gold dust is the fact that no one thinks he stands a chance.

DEADLY SINS IN A SCRIPT

The reader is confused.

Most common reasons: too much information; it is not clear what is happening to whom and why that it is.

The reader is indifferent.

Most common reasons: a bland person in a forgetful situation; a stock character/ stereotype in a clichéd situation.

The reader is annoyed.

Most common reasons: poor grammar and scruffy or incorrect formatting.

The reader is bored.

Most common reasons: lack of brevity and punch in the scene descriptions; no forward momentum in the narrative (the story doesn’t seem to be going anywhere).

Again, all of the above ‘sins’ will be evident in a treatment and trailer.