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!