fear & loathing in competition land

August 21, 2010

 

Okay, it is past time someone do this. Open the doors and state clearly what has been going on behind closed doors at the now infamous Silver Screenwriting Competition. It doesn’t look like anyone else is going to do it. Everyone I talk to appears to be afraid of Julie Gray. Why I am not sure. She does not appear really connected to me and I don’t expect she is able to get on the phone and blackball me at Paramount or something. She just doesn’t have that kind of clout. But someone needs to say something out loud here because it is wrong that people who have the information are not sharing it and people who do not have the information are generally novice screenwriters about to get fleeced because nobody bothered to warn them they were walking into a tar pit. So here we go —


 

Fear & Loathing in Competition Land

Silver Screenwriting Competition is run by a woman named Julie Gray. She also runs a screenplay consulting firm, The Script Department. She’s done a good job of promoting both, though most indications are a few years ago she was a struggling screenwriter who couldn’t herself get read or find an agent — who just went for the money by founding a business in which other writers paid her to tell them how to write and get agents and sell scripts. Kind of interesting since it doesn’t appear she had much success pulling any of the above off herself.

Flash forward, Ms. Gray’s consulting business is doing well and her competition is barreling along getting entries a few years later when a blog post comes out on one of her associate’s blogs saying the associate while reading for an unnamed competition screamed through 75 competition scripts in three hours, often dumping a script from the competition because she didn’t care for the way the title page was formatted or for the writer’s zip code. This started moving on the web — and the blog post was ultimately removed, though is still available in a pdf download here and yeah you do have to register with the forum to download that sorry — when Jeff Lowell, an established TV/film writer/director, posted the post’s link on Done Deal, an established online forum for writers in every tier of the screenwriting community from rank amateur to veteran. The fall out from this post was major. I am pretty sure it got talked about everywhere from MovieBytes to Zoetrope and places in between, the only screenwriting community I haven’t seen it talked about on is Wordplay. And since then, there have been a whole lot of lies — yeah I said it, lies — posted online, often by Gray herself, in defense of the competition and Gray’s consulting firm.

The first lie was that Margaux Froley wasn’t actually reading for or talking about the Silver Screenwriting Competition when she posted that blog post. This is a lie. She was reading for Silver Screenwriting Competition. This was later even stated by Gray herself.

Another major untruth is the statement Margaux Froley, the reader who blogged about blowing through 75 scripts in three hours, wasn’t actually operating as a first tier reader for the competition, that she was actually doing some sort of last chance read for scripts that had been dinked in the competition but the folks at the competition just want to be sure so check the losers one more time. Another lie. Margaux Froley was reading first tier scripts entered in the competition.

Another lie is that there were reader guidelines and judging practices in place for Silver Screenwriting Competition at the time of the Froley blow up. This is also untrue. Prior to the Froley upheaval, there were no judging standard practices or guidelines for the competition. Those were only created and posted online after public fall out over the Froley post.

Since that time I’ve done some more digging and a few more interesting facts have come up about the Silver Screenwriting competition and Julie Gray. One is, Gray’s 16 year old daughter is one of the readers for the competition. I do not know about you, but if I were shelling out $50 to $65 for a screenwriting competition entry fee, I’d like to know the judge reading and evaluating my script was more qualified than the competition founder’s under age daughter. Many of Gray’s readers also apparently did not get paid this year. And other past readers have worked for free on the basis of promises they would share in future competition profits if they would just work for free for a while building the competition and consulting business up — and also maybe bring in some investors to help Gray expand the business and competition. Gray also allegedly organized reading parties at which readers would meet to read aloud and mock unintentionally funny sections of Silver Screenwriting script entries. I get reading can be trying, I get sometimes you want to blow off steam and share something inadvertently entertaining you came across in a competition script. That happens. But organizing a party specifically for readers to mock competition entry scripts as a group seems a bit bizarre and cruel coming from the competition’s founder and organizer, someone who presents herself as a nurturing figure who cares about and mentors writers.

Meanwhile, there are rumors an industry “pro” listed on the consultant company’s page as being available to read scripts at The Script Department does not actually read for The Script Department, those reads are done by someone else. Other rumors Gray is in a fight with the agents of a writer quoted prominently on her site saying great things about her services — except the quotes are allegedly not actual quotes from the writer being quoted and the writer wants the “quotes” removed from Gray’s site. And still other rumors Gray is facing legal action from at least one disillusioned investor if not more.

Gray posted a diatribe on Huffington Post, “What’s the Deal With Cyber-Jerks?,” denouncing anyone who was saying less than glowing things about her competition and consulting business and essentially calling anyone posting negative commentary bullies and/or bitter losers.

That’s not why people are posting negative commentary on your competition, Ms. Gray. Some people are posting because people who are involved with ethical competitions don’t want to share the taint of your unethical behavior. Others because we remember what it was like to be new and it sure would have been nice if someone had stepped up and said, Whoah, hold on there kid, that’s a tar pit, take the other path. And I am sure still others because they don’t like being mislead and taken advantage of. In other words —

We are not bullies, Ms. Gray. We are defenders of writers. I wish you had been too.

 


*thank you to the numerous sources who made this post possible, all of whom wish to remain nameless at this time

*i’d link zoetrope but they’ve screwed up my account, don’t respond to email, their auto responder password resetter doesn’t work and their auto responder setting up new accounts doesn’t work either so no link for you zoetrope

*i’m getting a lot of crap for the word “rumor” okay let’s put that in perspective, i was being nice!

 

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75 Responses to “fear & loathing in competition land”

  1. Kitty said

    Um. Wow.

    I only enter two contests. Nicholl and Austin.

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by scribomatic, max adams. max adams said: Fear & Loathing in Competition Land « celluloid blonde http://ow.ly/2sWQY #film #writing #screenwriting [...]

  3. [...] few weeks ago I posted this entry about the Silver Screenwriting Contest.  Now some more details have come out into the open courtesy of Max Adam’s blog.  All screenwriters who submit to [...]

  4. max said

    Good choices. That like button is cute. Kinda facebookey but cute. Thanks.

  5. Bradford Richardson said

    “Tar pit,” is the perfect description for these kind of unscrupulous consulting services and competitions.
    Thank you, Max!

  6. Martin said

    Well played.

  7. max said

    Thank you Martin.

  8. max said

    Thank you Bradford.

  9. Thank you Max for being brave enough and intelligent enough for outing this women.. I’ve known about this women and her activities for a long time and only wish I had had the balls to speak out like your goodself but like the many I foolishly kept my mouth shut.. I’m sorry for those who’ve been duped, ripped off, taken advantage of and screwed..

    Thank you Max Adams for being you..

    Kevan R. Craft

  10. Chris said

    Right on, Max. Thanks for taking the time to go into such detail on this.

    I blew through about $600 bucks on contests for my last script, it placed no worse than Quarterfinals in all of them, Semifinals and Finals in some, won one of them, and I got absolutely nothing out of it; not even a phone call.

    Like Kitty, I’ll only enter the Nichol and Austin (as well as the Bluecat and Sundance labs). They stand by their word, and the risk/reward ratio is huge; win one of those and you’ve essentially punched your ticket, you’ll be in the “Club”. Smaller contests like Silver will disappoint you even if you win them — save your money!

  11. max said

    Thank you Kevan and Chris.

  12. Michael said

    Thanks so much for having the balls to stand up like this. I’ve been a serial contest submitter for far too long, but admitting one has a problem is the first step and this post helps my resolve.

    In short, I’m working on it, but much thanks.

    Michael

  13. max said

    There are some good contests, Michael. Just not this one.

  14. Ilene said

    Nice reporting, Max. All I have to say about the subjects of your report is it’s good not to be them. LOL

  15. billie sue mosiman said

    I knew there was still integrity left in the world. You go, Max.

  16. Marjory Kaptanoglu said

    Thanks for having guts and integrity, Max.

  17. Jamal said

    I can’t believe people are still talking about this. Wow. Seriously. Besides the grand-daddies of Screenwriting Competitions, I don’t think ANYBODY knows what truly goes on behind these closed doors – the rumors or facts or data or whatever is going on.. do we know all sides? There are disgruntled ex-members of this woman’s company as well as disgruntled writers who demand satisfaction. Boo hoo, I am a writer and nobody loves me too.. And boo hoo someone posts libelous shizznet on message boards… all you are doing is creating free press. Congrats… bad press is still press. Who actually has been behind this woman’s door(s) with her with all this inside information? Why do we fellow screenwriters demand answers… I think of all the time folks have spent bitching and moaning instead of just writing or taking care of their own shizznet. Wait… that’s a good point. So, that’s what I am about to do – because this all makes my head hurt…

  18. max said

    The reason unethical behavior in this cottage industry has flourished is people do not talk about it. The conspiracy of fear and silence has to be broken. People need to bust unethical behavior when it starts and talk about it in the open and shine light on it so that it does not continue to flourish and spread unchecked. I am appalled it has gone this far without someone saying something before.

  19. Susan said

    Wow, Max Adams linked to my posting (the moviebytes discussion of Silvergate)–is this a sign my screenwriting career is about to take off?!

    Yeah, probably not. But I am grateful that you’ve stuck with your investigation of dirty dealings in contest-land. I still feel icky when I think of the $50 I sent to Silver Screenwriting. I don’t know if my non-LA address or my non-LA/NY setting got me tossed out early or not. But even if my script was treated fairly (and avoided being mocked at the Mean Readers party), I hate to think that I helped line the pockets of these scam artists. It’s hard to say which of your findings is most horrifying, but I guess I’ll go with the 16-year-old reader. That’s not only unfair to the entrants (who are just random strangers to Julie) but to her daughter as well. I’ve read amateur scripts on the internet and there are plenty that are not something I’d want to be responsible for forcing a minor to read.

    Again, thanks for looking out for the n00bs!

  20. max said

    Hey, Susan. Thanks for stopping by. Nice topic you started there. [smile]

  21. Lucian Dixon said

    Your post above which starts with:

    “The reason unethical behavior in this cottage industry has flourished is people do not talk about it….”

    says it perfectly, Max.

    While I understand the reasoning behind thoughts like ‘if you live in LA and can’t format properly, you shouldn’t be submitting a screenplay’, when I lived there I read original screenplay after original screenplay – subsequently produced – in the AFI, Writers Guild, and Academy libraries which were not formatted perfectly and/or contained typos or terrible grammar. I read screenplays set in obscure places or with titles Margaux Froley would object to. Yet the *stories* held my attention (and clearly producers’ and audiences’).

    Would she have stopped reading ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ because she didn’t find the title catchy enough?

    What about a film set in a diner in Maine about a female ex-con? Doesn’t sound too exciting, does it? Yet ‘The Spitfire Grill’ resulted from that basic idea. Margaux Froley would presumably have turned it down after 180/75…2.4 minutes.

    In any case, thanks for this post and the link to the PDF of Ms. Froley’s comments.

  22. max said

    Thank you for stopping by and commenting Lucian.

  23. Ken said

    The real question is, what will be this contests name next year, because I’m sure she will rename it becaue of the exposure she is getting.

    Somehow I don’t think this problem is limited to this particular competition. It is probably endemic of the most of the competition industry (yikes!).

    I only entered Nicholl this year but consider it and just a few others even worth the time.

    Thanks Max…

  24. Steve said

    Max, I can appreciate your heart is in the right place and I share your disgust about the initial issue that sparked the post. In fact, I’m a little glad to see that the heat has been turned up on Julie because once that old blog post of hers was found and it was EXTREMELY similar to Margaux’s, it was clear to me that Julie is the person we should have a beef with. Margaux was just the scapegoat whom Julie used to try to wash her hands of the situation. All she did was what her boss told her.

    But I don’t think posts like this one help. It seems full of innuendo, unnamed sources and unproven details. It’s one thing to quote Margaux’s post. That’s a matter of record, as are Julie’s own posts It’s quite another to make the “reader party” accusations without a source, to say nothing of the charges that her daughter reads for her and that readers were unpaid. It’s petty gossip at best and since you persist in bringing up this topic long after it was thoroughly chewed over at Done Deal, you come across as a muckracker with an axe to grind.

    There is not a single new documented fact in this post. All it does is make you look like the rabid posters that Julie portrayed her enemies as in the HuffPo blog.

  25. max said

    Well, I do not think Done Deal speculative message board posts with no conclusions closes things. I was looking for solid answers. So I went out and got them.

    Q: Was Margaux reading for Silver Screenwriting?
    A: Yes. She was reading for Silver Screenwriting.

    Q: Was Margaux a “last chance” reader?
    A: No. She was a first tier reader.

    Q: Were there judging guidelines in place?
    A: No. There were no judging guidelines in place.

    Q: What are the qualifications of competition judges?
    A: There are none. The competition organizer’s teen daughter was a judge.

    To me these are important questions and answers. And I have five in stone sources to back those answers up. [I was a real journalist at one time.] And ten heresay sources who have second hand information that backs them up.

    Am I naming those people? No. All of them are under the impression Julie Gray could hurt them. If they weren’t, they would have said something before on their own. Can they all be called into a court of law if it comes to that? You bet.

    I am a public figure and an easy target if someone wants to retaliate and come after me. There is no way in hell I would post any of this if I could not back it up. And perhaps I should have worded the post differently. But know one thing. When I said “rumor”?

    I was being nice.

  26. sc111 said

    Great work, Max. I don’t doubt the sources with first-hand knowledge of the above examples of Julie’s arrogance and lack of ethics.

    I also agree that Marguax Froley bore the brunt of the fallout when it was clear she was simply following Julie’s lead. The buck stops with Julie. But she finds convoluted ways to take herself out of the line of fire — a personality flaw, at the least.(I’m being kind.)

    The thing Julie fails to relaize is — if you burn enough people (which she has), at some point it reaches critical mass and backlash is a given. The old saw,”You can’t fool all the people all the time,” is true. But arrogance such as hers tends to blur this reality.

    On fear and loathing of Julie’s ire — unless your sources signed non-disclosures, they shouldn’t fear legal backlash.

    And as for Julie burning whistleblowers by blacklisting them with her “connections,” I wouldn’t worry about that either.

    Every legit production company or agent who uses her services for coverage will now wonder if her 16-year-old daughter is doing the job they’re paying Julie to do.

    I have a hunch Julie’s downfall began when she set her sights on being the next Sid Field. She should have paced herself better. :-)

  27. Lynne Logan said

    Thanks so much for posting this, Max! There are no words for how truly horrible this is! I’ve heard of other contests that weren’t exactly on the level of Nicholl’s or Austin, but this one… re-defines SLEAZY! Luckily, I’ve never thrown my money away on the Silver Screenwriting Contest, and thanks to this article… now I never will! ;)

    Peace out…
    Lynne

  28. Jamal said

    Hey Max! This is getting good… my roommate and I are watching this go down. But, we have an idea – instead of writing about all this safely behind your computer, why don’t you do some investigative journalism and actually interview Miss Gray herself? Like, why don’t you offer up a one on one meet up to chat with her directly? It’s like Israel and Palestine over here – sticks and stones. But, I am serious! Get down to this shizznet and pick up your phone, get your email on standby or offer to talk to the horse’s head?

  29. Shelly said

    Whether or not the sources can be named at this point isn’t really the issue. Max is an ethical person. Gray is not. Max wouldn’t make something up to slander Gray. Jeesh. I think we’re all lucky there’s someone brave enough and untouchable enough to keep an eye on ethics.

  30. Steve said

    I don’t know Max. Max is just some guy with a blog. I could easily start a blog and say that I’ve got five unnamed sources who don’t want to go on record saying that Max is actually Julie’s ex-husband and that he’s trying to smear her business to hurt her.

    Max doesn’t have any credibility with me by citing unnamed sources, and despite his claims of being a journalist in the past, this post isn’t written at all like any legitimate news article I’ve seen. In fact, if I was Julie Gray, I might have my attorney give Max a call about the possible libel in this article as these charges are baseless as presented in the article and could cause a great deal of harm to her business.

    After all, Max implies that none of these sources would have his back if they had to be named. They’re scared that Julie will come after them and he’s stated that publicly, so now Julie KNOWS she’s got that leverage. Even if the charges have some truth, she knows her faceless accuses are so afraid of reprisals that they won’t go on record. Which means in a legal fight between her and Max, she wins.

    Add to this that Max seems determined to stir up the firestom at Done Deal again, admitting he’s disappointed in how quiet the topic has been since he’s posted. He wants everybody to go apeshit and his whole purpose here is stirring up the lynch mob.

    Max has an agenda here too.

  31. I’ll never understand why people (e.g., you, Steve) don’t bother to read posts carefully which they react to before they do and/or research the people concerned and the topics mentioned. It’s not hard these days – that’s what the Internet has done for us.

    Max is one, not a guy, and two, not just ‘a guy with a blog’ but, instead, a public figure who’s been in the screenwriting business a long time and is the recipient of the Nicholl Award and the Austin Film Festival award.

    She’s easy enough to find on Google and/or in the IMDB database.

    As far as her implying that her sources would not have her back if it came to a libel trial, I don’t read that in anything she’s said at all.

    Here’s the relevant section of her post which discusses this:

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Am I naming those people? No. All of them are under the impression Julie Gray could hurt them. If they weren’t, they would have said something before on their own. Can they all be called into a court of law if it comes to that? You bet.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    She doesn’t name them because they’d prefer that they not be named in case of possible reprisals by whomever. As we all know, Hollywood is a small town and success or failure is often based on personal relationships. Why bring more hassle upon yourself than necessary?

    Nevertheless, as she (Max) says: “Can they all be called into a court of law if it comes to that? You bet.”

    So it sounds to me as if Max is confident enough in what she writes as to not be worried about their backing her if this dispute ever came to a trial.

  32. max said

    Steve, I am not a “guy” at all. You clearly do not know what you are talking about or whom you are talking to. You are no longer welcome in this discussion.

  33. max said

    BTW, the people trying to post Julie Gray’s new spin here can stop it. As entertaining and bizarre as it is, those posts won’t go up here.

  34. Lucian Dixon said

    As I looked at this photo series of events around the world (tall ship regattas, Amsterdam canal parties,horse-catching festivals on the steppes of Mongolia):…

    http://www.stern.de/reise/fernreisen/lustreisen-wenn-lack-und-latex-provozieren-1502533-e4c78aa484a03061.html

    …I compared it with Margaux Froley’s lack of interest in screenplays set anywhere but NYC or LA.

    What an idiotic approach! No wonder so many films & tv series look exactly alike!

  35. It’s always seemed to me that the fees for entering screenwriting contests are so ridiculously high that they pretty much guarantee a solid tier of the jaded living off the naive in this exact way. It’s the same with the World Poetry Competition, the one where everyone who enters is told they’ve won and the prize is to be presented at a conference, and all they need to do is buy a $400 ticket.

    People put their hearts into these scripts, these poems. To become the kind of vampire who knowingly preys on callow artists just BECAUSE is not something that any artistic community or individual should give a pass to. These “by posting here you’re not doing any good” posts are not simply wrongheaded; they are nefarious. The solution to ugly truths is never achieved through repression.

  36. max said

    It gets better. Now her site says for $500 she’ll teach you to be a reader in a 4 week email correspondence course.

  37. Christie said

    COOL! If I order now does she toss in a free set of Ginsu knives?

  38. max said

    I suspect it comes with a Max voodoo doll and pins.

  39. Marjory said

    Here, I’m going to save you all $500…

    Week one:
    – Read the title page. If the author hails from anyplace other than NY or LA, if formatting/font is wrong, or if title is lame (definition of “lame” up to you), read no further.

    Week two:
    – Read the first two pages. If you don’t like the genre, if the characters’ names annoy you, or if the setting is not NY or LA, fuggedaboudit.

    Week three:
    – Throw a party to mock titles, authors’ hometowns, and opening pages of rejected scripts.

    Week four:
    – For any scripts that passed the title and two page tests, have your offspring/parent/grandparent read the rest and rate.

    Sit back and pour yourself a glass of cabernet. You deserve it!

  40. And you should be able to buy an awesome Cabernet with all the money you’ve saved.

  41. max said

    Well also that is a spoof on a Julie Gray post about reading:

    Succeed at Failing the Quik n Easy Way!

    Froley did not fall far from the tree, she just got people’s attention and that made everyone take a big step back and look harder at Gray:

    “It’s so easy to hit ‘do not advance’. It only takes a page or three before I do it.” — Julie Gray

  42. Ilene said

    Clever her. Julie Gray may be turning her reputation for flip, dismissive commentary about script vetting into a plus.

    “Impress me, I DARE YOU! Get me to read past page 1, for I am a TYPICAL HOLLYWOOD READER and I personify what you are up against. If you can conquer my indifference, boredom and desire for a nosh YOU CAN MAKE IT in the big leagues, too baby reader!”

    This may work to her advantage as people become convinced that she provides real deal as a Hollywood reader. (The 16-year-old flipping through scripts while mom pockets the fees is a bit less impressive.)

    Harumph.

  43. James Patrick Joyce said

    “So at The Script Department, we’re still judging scripts for the Silver Screenwriting Competition. Also for the Nevada Film Commission – betcha didn’t they had one of those, didja? Well, we are. Several of us are reading. For a few weeks now. And it will continue. It has been an interesting experience; I want every writer to advance in this competition. But alas, not all can. With one keystroke, I can put the writer one step closer to success – or one step backward toward frustration. Heavy weighs the crown. I am the decider.

    But to be perfectly frank, as I lie on my couch with my laptop on my lap judging scripts on this lazy Sunday afternoon, I’m thinking two things: 1) I’d rather be doing something else and 2) I’m getting sleepy. But some writers, bless their hearts, are making it really easy and fast to judge their scripts. It’s as if they know I’d rather be doing something else. It’s as if they are literally greasing the tracks for me”

    Oh, God.

    If you’re going to take money to criticize/mock/etc the writing skills of others…

    well…

    Those are two nasty paragraphs. It’s scary, really, that anyone thinks she has a useful opinion.

  44. max said

    1 of 2
    LAW OFFICES OF AJ FUDGE
    Entertainment & Business Law
    August 28, 2010
    Dear Ms. Max Adams,
    Please be advised that our firm has been retained by Julie Gray and The Script Department to
    investigate and take legal action against you for the series of unwarranted and defamatory attacks
    against them made by you and the visitors on your website. Specifically, the website is
    http://www.celluloidblonde.wordpress.com.
    The Script Department has been in business for over two years and has provided hundreds of
    writers the opportunity to receive coverage of their screenplays and to compete in the Silver
    Screenwriting Competition. Our client provides its customers with access to professional script
    readers who are able to give the writers the insight and expertise they need to improve their
    screenplays. The Script Department has established a well-founded reputation for the quality of
    its services and customer satisfaction, and your unwarranted actions and baseless accusations
    have damaged that reputation and adversely affected our client’s business.
    You have personally posted many willfully false and misleading comments about our client.
    Some examples of your defamatory statements include:
    Gray organized “a party specifically for readers to mock competition entry
    scripts”
    “an industry ‘pro’ listed on the consultant company’s page as being available to
    read scripts at The Script Department does not actually read for The Script
    Department, those reads are done by someone else.”
    “Gray is in a fight with the agents of a writer quoted prominently on her site
    saying great things about her services”
    “Gray is facing legal action from at least one disillusioned investor if not more”
    “people who are involved with ethical competitions don’t want to share the taint
    of [Ms. Gray’s] unethical behavior.”
    The above statements made in reference to The Script Department, the Silver Screenwriting
    1 0 4 1 NOR T H FORMO S A A V EN UE
    FO RMOSA BU I L DING
    WE S T HO L LYWOOD, CA 9 0 0 4 6
    3 2 3 . 4 3 6 . 0 8 1 0 / A J@LAWO FF IC E SOFA J F UDGE . COM
    2 of 2
    Competition, and Ms. Gray are utterly false and without merits, and they are defamation per se in
    that they depict our client as engaging in fraudulent activities that violate civil and criminal law.
    The mere labeling of the statement as rumor does not make it so, particularly in light of the
    following statement, also published on your website, that is made in reference to the defamatory
    statements:
    “I’m getting a lot of crap for the word ‘rumor’ okay let’s put that in perspective, I
    was being nice!”
    Additionally, you actively encourage and solicit defamatory statements from visitors on your
    website. According to a recent decision from the Unites States Court of Appeals for the Ninth
    Circuit [Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley v. Roomates.com, LLC, 489 F.3d 921 (9th
    Cir. 2007)] you likely have serious financial exposure to The Script Department for each and
    every one of the defamatory statements made by these visitors.
    Your attempts to spread libelous and defamatory material about our client have caused serious
    and irreparable injury to it, its reputation, and its business. Our client will not stand by and allow
    this misconduct to continue.
    We hereby demand that you:
    1. Immediately remove from all of your websites all defamatory and disparaging remarks
    regarding our client made by you and your visitors, and
    2. Immediately cease and desist in publishing defamatory statements about our client, whether
    the statements are made by you or third parties,
    3. Compensate our client for its attorney fees and costs.
    Please note that this law firm does not attempt to restrict legitimate free speech, and we believe
    that the Internet is an important medium for dissemination of accurate and truthful information
    and for fair comment on issues of interest. Your activities, however, unlawfully encroach upon
    our client’s rights.
    This letter puts you on notice that should you refuse to comply with our demands by August 29,
    2010, we will have no choice but to recommend that our client pursue all legal causes of action,
    including the filing of a lawsuit, to protect its interests. We will pursue both damages and
    attorney fees and costs incurred by our client as a result of your actions.
    This is a very serious matter that requires your immediate attention. We therefore strongly
    recommend that you address and resolve this situation immediately. This letter is your one and
    only change to resolve this matter amicably.
    Please be aware that this letter is copyrighted by our law firm, and you are not authorized to
    republish this letter in any manner. Use of this letter in a posting, in full or in part, will subject
    you to further legal causes of action.
    Sincerely,
    AJ Fudge, Esq.

  45. Andy said

    OMG! You got served? What are you going to do? ;)

  46. max said

    “In my experience, the only times a company opposes the posting of a cease and desist letter is when they are doing something they want to cover up. When a company is acting within both ethical and legal bounds, they tend not to care if their letters are posted.”

    Excellent article: http://www.blogherald.com/2008/01/28/cease-and-desist-copyright-and-fair-use/

  47. pooks said

    Gee, Max, you are a shrinking violet who will now be afraid, very afraid, right? (ahem)

  48. max said

    I am a delicate flower. :::whistling:::

  49. You should find a lawyer named “Packer”.

    It’s a tough time for lawyers, too. I imagine many of them are willing to do anything for a buck, and the more billable hours the better.

    Stuff like this only stimulates more interest.

    Public Citizen has some interesting stuff:
    http://www.citizen.org/Page.aspx?pid=3306&q=Legal%20Perils%20and%20Legal%20Rights%20of%20Internet%20Speakers

  50. Susan said

    The Silver Screenwriting FAQ (http://www.silverscreenwriting.com/faqs/) says

    “Q: Who reads my script? Will I receive notes?

    Qualified industry readers will be evaluating your script. Each script entered will receive a ratings grid via email once its status is announced.”

    I have written twice to receive this ratings grid and haven’t heard anything back. I would suggest that all entrants who are concerned about the fairness of this competition write to info@silverscreenwriting.com and request this ratings grid if you haven’t received it. A ratings grid won’t prove anything, but it will be interesting to see if they appear to have them on hand already.

  51. Chris Lockhart said

    [*Note 1.10.11: Chris Lockhart has contacted me and said he did not actually post this here.]

    From Two Adverbs Post

    Contest Trouble? My take on the Silver Screenwriting Contest…

    This contest and its founder have come under attack because of a blog written by one of the contest readers, who admitted to tossing scripts aside for frivilous reasons.

    Even the well-respected (and attractive) Max Adams has taken a public position against the Silver Screenwriting Contest.

    I’ve never been a particularly big fan of contests since I got burned endorsing one in which the organizers took entry fees, skipped town and never announced winners.

    But I’m not sure why this particular screenwriting contest or its founder is being singled out.

    Wake the fuck up people! This contest isn’t organized or executed any differently than most contests.

    A few years ago, I wrote on my blog how I was approached by Scriptapalooza to read scripts. They were going to send me 80 scripts! There were no directions or instructions. I was to simply wade through them and give a thumbs up to the ones I deemed worthy. My remuneration was a shot at finding great material. I politely turned down the offer. Do you think that executives around town are reading 80 scripts from beginning to end without getting paid? Why hasn’t anyone taken up arms against Scriptapalooza? Where are all the blogs and nasty posts against that contest?

    A while back, this site published an article by my friend who judges quite a few contests. (It was also posted on my blog.) He wrote about his methodology – which included tossing most scripts aside long before he ever got to the end of the first act. As an aside, he even told me, his dog once pissed on a script so he just tossed it in the trash without ever breaking the spine.

    In one of my old blogs, I wrote that incomplete reads were a fundamental problem with contests. While tossing a script aside long before “fade out” is commonplace in Hollywood, a writer isn’t paying WME fifty bucks to read the script. (In fact, WME is paying someone $75 to read a script. It costs them money – not the writer.)

    Contests are different. Contestants pay money and expect a full read for their investment. But this, IMO, is a naive expectation. If contests were honest and explained that the entry fee was an admin fee – not a reading fee – and didn’t guarantee a full read, things would be on the up & up. But they might lose a large chunk of their business.

    Some are offended because the Silver Screenwriting contest uses a sixteen-year-old reader. Many contests use inexperienced readers (that’s how they get by not paying them anything or much). They’re often recruited from Craig’s List.

    Even if contests have the best intentions, NO CONTEST can police all their readers and guarantee that they are doing the job that is expected of them – especially IF THEY ARE READING IN BULK.

    I would venture to say that any reader who is given a bundle of scripts to read is not reading the entire text of a script he deems unworthy. Even contests that ask readers to provide a synopsis or checklist does not mean that an experienced analyst must read the whole script. Most readers need only peruse the first act and then skim and jump the rest of the script (looking for key plotpoints) to finish up a synopsis or checklist.

    Most coverage from these kinds of contests is very generic and comments and notes can be culled simply from the first act – using sweeping generalizations to make it seem like the entire script was read. (Pulling out a piece of dialogue or something specific from late in the script is another sleight of hand to make it seem like careful attention was paid to the latter part of the screenplay.)

    So why pick on the Silver Screenwriting Contest? Because you think it’s the only contest that strays from a high level of integrity?

    You’d be mistaken.

    I’m very frustrated by the actions of writers who pick on the Silver Screenwriting Contest – while shelling out entry fees to other contests.

    I’ve read lots of scripts. I know every trick in the book. I know lots of contest readers. And I’ve judged contests myself. I know what goes on in many of the big contests. And the modus operandi of the Silver Screenwriting Contest reader is standard operating procedure by many contest readers. (Even if just one reader in each contest operates this way, it creates an inequal judging system.)

    I was a judge in one contest where I had my faithful story analyst read the finalists and then I read the script he deemed the best. This is the way it works, folks. There isn’t a whole lot of honesty in screenwriting contests.

    But you don’t REALLY give a fuck.

    Because there’s thread after thread featuring: “I’m a quarterfinalist in the XYZ Contest!” or “Has anyone heard from the ABC Contest yet?” But, for some reason, lighting up the Silver Screenwriting Contest while turning a blind eye to most all the other contests, makes you feel better. As if you were able to ferret out the one bad contest and can sleep well knowing your entry fees are a good investment in all the others.

    Give me fucking break, you rubes!

    That’s ludicrous and hypocritical.

    Just thought you should know.

  52. Ilene said

    Chris,

    Sheriff Adams is shining a light on these scammy practices, beginning with Silver Screenwriting. If this is standard practice within the competition industry, it’s time writers became fully informed that these companies are far less interested in their scripts than in cashing their checks.

    I have no argument with anybody who cares to submit their works and pay high fees to very marginal competitions. But it’s imperative that their practices become exposed so that writers can decide with both eyes open if entering works for them.

  53. Karen said

    Chris,

    Interesting. By the same token, if we can’t catch all people committing the same type of crime simultaneously, we shouldn’t catch an individual criminal. Or if a reporter spots corruption in the political arena, the reporter should be forbidden from reporting the corruption until they’re absolutely sure they have found out about and can report on every single person who has participated in that type of corruption. At once. Why not extend that logic to the medical field? A surgeon shouldn’t operate on any patient who needs surgery until he or she is absolutely sure every person in the world with the problem has been diagnosed and can be treated.

    As someone who is now ineligible for most contests, I’m grateful to Max and everyone else who cares enough to speak up. Because I remember what it was like when I was starting out — when I didn’t have much money to put forward and I couldn’t see any clear way to break in. It’s twisted to play on a person’s hopes. For individuals and the masses.

  54. sc111 said

    Amazing letter from Mr. Fudge, ESQ. Wow. Just wow. I think he got confused about the copyright of his letter.

    Copyright law is so amazingly complex I’m surprised he made this threat.

    As for threat of suing you for the Fear & Loathing blog and comments — to engage a lawyer to do so indicates a lack of business saavy that’s profound.

    This is no way to conduct damage control. Especially not on the net. Even more so that she has posted her “refund” blog admitting problems with first-round judging, which is the core of the issue.

  55. max said

    “the well-respected (and attractive) Max Adams”

    This is my favorite part of the whole thread. Thank you Chris. Smooch!

    Silver Screenwriting is now offering refunds to contest participants.

  56. max said

    [By the way, it is my sincere hope ANY competition playing fast and loose with entrants' material re-evaluate any practices which might be considered shoddy or unethical. And Chris it would be great if you would post the links to those blog posts you mentioned I have not seen those.]

  57. Chris Lockhart said

    [*Note 1.10.11: Chris Lockhart has contacted me and said he did not actually post this here.]

    Max …

    You are attractive and smart – but you are missing the point. Part of what Julie said about “cyber-bullying” is very true here. Her contest and many others are standing operating procedure. I don’t believe the contest as a whole did anything wrong. One bad egg in her fold caused a little salmonella outbreak… Just please leave her alone. It makes you look mean and yes… well like a bully.

    I say this with the utmost respect. Wake up people. 300, or 500, or 8,000 scripts is a lot to sift through. And it sounds like Ms. Gray is offering refunds because she believes in her contest and believes in doing the right thing. Bravo. I commend her for offering refunds.

    I don’t condone bashing on message boards and singling people/contests/execs/ please send more time writing and worrying about your own “shit”

    You didn’t have to single her out or be the lone sheriff of screenwriting town

    I say that from the bottom of my heart

  58. max said

    If nothing wrong happened there is nothing wrong with me saying what happened.

  59. insider said

    While Chris is right in that the overall judging practices of the Silver Screenwriting contest aren’t far from the standard practices that other contests follow, there are a few details of what happened behind the scenes that are pretty shocking, and that convey an attitude of the person behind the contest that was previously hidden. For this to come to light isn’t rumor or bullying, it’s just what it is. If you don’t mind giving your money to this type of contest, then so be it. If you wrote a great script you still have a chance to win some cool prizes. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with exposing what is going on at a contest so that people can decide for themselves whether or not to support such practices.

  60. sc111 said

    My granny used to say, “Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it right.” But – seriously – as Insider said above, this went “beyond.”

    And though it appears evidence is fast disappearing from the web, (evidence in Julie’s past writings conveying a cavalier attitude about dinking scripts due to a title not to her liking), it seems Froley was merely echoing her boss’ approach to judging scripts. (I went to look for her “as I lay on my sofa and judge scripts” blog, which reflected this dink-scripts-at-will approach, but all Done Deal threads linking to it have gone “poof.”)

    Still — if not reading past Act 1 is S.O.P. for contests such as Austin, as she claims in her judging criteria post, I truly wonder how SCC readers can give a grade on structure or plot in the first round.

  61. sc111 said

    Addendum to my previous post … I was thinking, if reading only the first act (approx. 30 pages) is S.O.P og all contests … haven’t we all read scripts that absolutely went down hill after the first 30 pages? I know I have. Isn’t Act 2 the real test of a writer? I think so.

    But if all contests only require reading to page 30, how can one finalist be chosen above all others? It doesn’t make sense to me.

  62. Inge said

    When Julie posted her Huffington Post piece she lost the right to be left alone.

    She’s trying last minute damage control so she can run her contest again next year. She wants the gesture of offering refunds to be the last thing remembered about this year’s contest.

    Sorry, Chris, you wake the fuck up.

    One bad egg causing a salmonella outbreak? Julie fucking lied and claimed Margaux was only giving the lowest scoring scripts another chance. She doesn’t even keep track of her own bullshit.

    You think these rube newbie wannabe screenwriters deserve to have their hard-earned money stolen from them by these contests?

    Fuck that.

    Reposting Julie’s own words to illustrate her true nature isn’t bullying. It isn’t mean. It’s accurate reporting.

    Nothing wrong with telling it like it is.

    A smug poser got her ass handed to her. Boo hoo.

  63. max said

    That post is still up: http://www.justeffing.com/2008/08/10/succeed-at-failing-the-quik-n-easy-way/

    “It’s so easy to hit “do not advance”. It only takes a page or three before I do it. And when you do that a lot, you whiz through scripts.” — Julie Gray

  64. Martin said

    Simply incredible. The sarcasm, the cynicism. The balls. (Open threads – sigh -) Keep up the good work, Max.

  65. TheDudeSpeaketh said

    “Wake the fuck up people! This contest isn’t organized or executed any differently than most contests.”

    Using generalizations will definitely wake up people, huh?

  66. sc111 said

    Thanks for the link, Max. That’s the one. I guess I couldn’t find it because it dates back to 2008, the fledgling year of her contest.

    The list preceding the quote you show above, a list detailing reasons she hits “Do Not Advance” after a page or three of reading, I find most interesting.

    Because a couple of the items echo what people objected to in the Froley blog. Two years later. But this one, mentioned by Froley in 2010 and Gray in 2008, surprises me the most:

    1. Have a really weird, elliptical title that makes no sense

    Is dinking a script because the title doesn’t appeal to the reader truly standard operating procedure for all contests?

    If so, shouldn’t it be stated clearly in the contest rules or requirements? Not buried in a two-year old blog entry?

    I doubt people would fork over $75 in “administrative fees” (something Julie only clarified recently), if they knew their title alone could land them on the “Do Not Advance” heap.

    I know I wouldn’t. I suck at titles and usually have four or five for every script.

    And like I said above, how can you grade a script’s plot, structure, etc., (The SCC publically advertised “Judging Criteria”) if you haven’t read past the title? Or, for that, you haven’t read past page three?

    These questions are legit – not bullying.

  67. max, three angels got the day off when you posted this. God didn’t need them.

  68. Cathy said

    Thank you for posting this, Max —
    are there any screenplay competitions that are worth trying? I’ve wasted a lot of money and hope on them — any words of wisdom would be much appreciated.

  69. max said

    Right now, the only competition I can vouch for is Nicholl Fellowships. Nicholl was founded specifically to help writers by Mrs. Gee Nicholl who set up a trust out of her own pocket to fund the competition and fellowships and never intended to make a profit from the competition. It is run professionally and ethically and backed by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences.

    Nicholl is also a very hard competition to win. 6000+ entries come in every year. The competition is fierce. But it is the best and most recognized out there and has a solid record and a growing list of recognized professional writers coming out of the competition.

    Outside of that? I had no idea the competition world had turned into a cottage industry of this magnitude that was this unregulated and predatory. There are probably competitions that are run well out there. I just don’t know which ones those would be at this point and most of what I am hearing is pretty grim.

  70. max said

    Wait, I take that back. I’d vouch for Sundance still. Sundance is up front about what they take, read, what they are looking for. Their labs and people have always garnered a lot of respect. And Robert Redford is a man of principle and ethics who also put his own money into setting up an endeavor that was not founded with the intention of making a profit. Sundance goes on the list of the good guys too.

    I think a competition’s inception and founders and purpose too really is the place to look first and foremost when assessing a competition. Was it a grant or trust set up to benefit the arts and artists going in, or was it an offshoot of a business that is strictly for profit? Because that is the pattern that appears to be showing up.

  71. max said

    By the way, while I am making recommendations, I would like to recommend two excellent consulting options.

    One is Joanne Lammers. Since 1990, Joanne has been a freelance story analyst and script consultant. She has worked for many top production companies, including Bedford Falls, Morgan Creek, Geffen Films, Sherry Lansing, TNT and Participant Productions. For the past 17 years, she has read at Castle Rock Entertainment. She has read for several contests including the AFI TV Writers Workshop, and has served as a judge in the Samuel Goldwyn Writing Awards since 1996. Joanne began her career in development after receiving a B.S. in Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas. She worked for several years as a story editor and creative executive at A&M films, a division of A&M Records. Joanne has conducted film seminars across the country, including CineStory, the Austin Film Festival, Film Arts S.F. and the Northwest Screenwriters Guild. Joanne is currently studying for her MLIS in film and media archives. Her website is http://scriptnannies.com/

    Another is David Trottier. Dave Trottier has sold several screenplays and developed projects for The Walt Disney Company, Jim Henson Pictures, York Entertainment, On the Bus Productions, Hill Fields (for ABC) and New Century Pictures. Titles include Igor’s Revenge (produced), Zorro the Gay Blade (produced, but not credited), The Muppet’s Hockey Movie-The Comeback Kids (not completed due to Jim Henson’s death), Ratman From Saturn, Kumquat, The New Musketeers, and A Window in Time. He co-wrote and co-produced the cult comedy, Hercules Recycled. Most recently, he wrote A Penny Promise (produced), for a regional production company, and sold Hemingway’s Twin, an inspiring story about the Hemingway women.

    As a script consultant, he has helped dozens of his clients sell their work and win or place in contests (including two Nicholl Fellowship winners and a National Play Award winner). His book, The Screenwriter’s Bible, is now in its fifth edition. He has written a column for Script since 1989, and has published over a hundred articles in Writer’s Digest, Hollywood Scriptwriter, Road & Track, USA TODAY, Vision, Disney Channel Magazine, COINage, Gift & Stationery, Single Parent, Creative Screenwriting, American Writer and other national publications.

    Dave has an M.A. from Goddard College and is a graduate of both the Hollywood Scriptwriting Institute and the Hollywood Film Institute. He teaches occasional classes in writing and communications at the University of Phoenix (where he was honored with a Distinguished Teaching Award) and has taught writing and communications courses at over 30 American universities. He also served on the board of the Arts & Humanities Department of Cal-State, Long Beach, before moving to his present home in Utah. His website is http://www.keepwriting.com/

    These are people with meaningful professional credentials and experience as well as analysis skill. They are the kind of people writers should be looking for when considering a consultant. Education. Professional experience. Years experience. Success stories. Professional affiliations. These are all things writers need to be asking consultants when looking for a script consultant.

  72. max said

    By the way, everyone, I am shifting emphasis away from this blog to the new blog feed on the new site come visit it is nifty: http://newacademy.us/clips.htm

  73. Oh, bugger, do I have to add yet another Max feed?

  74. max said

    LOL — yes, sorry. [Wait, the queen with fifty thousand different feeds is asking this?]

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