At the Chicago Screenplay Awards, Every Script Receives Feedback

Transparency is our m.o. When any writer puts their work into the ether, it’s important that they’re protected and know where their script stands at all times. We have gone through extreme lengths to ensure that our process is bullet proof and unbiased across all genres and writers.

Each category is rated on a 1-10 scale. Scores are not assigned based on subjective opinion. Our analysts respond to a number of questions centered on how well various story mechanics function. Among the issues considered, the reader evaluates: the beats of the protagonist’s arc; how clearly the internal and external threats escalate and resolve; the function of key structural turning points; the coherence of the world; the consistency of the tone; the interplay between pacing and tension; and the subtext and subtlety of dialogue. 

In addition to assigning scores for individual categories, each analyst is asked to issue an overall recommendation for the script (this is kept internal in our secured database and not disclosed to other analysts, or the writers), supported by an Overall paragraph which summarizes their decision. When coverage is submitted, the individual scores and overall decisions are processed through an algorithm which weights each section based on degree of importance. For example, “Originality” is not weighted as strongly as “Character;” nor is “Tone” as important as “Conflict.”


Character

The protagonist’s development is central to a script’s success, and the main character(s) undergo the most analysis. Readers need to understand the protagonist’s emotional motivation and desires before they can invest in his/her journey, and nearly every scene should present information that’s relevant in some way to the protagonist’s arc.

Conflict

The analyst thinks of “conflict” as the engine that drives the story, and as such, the central conflict should be universal and permeate the entire narrative. There should also be minor conflicts, which further complicate the Protagonist’s struggle. Even minor characters and antagonists generally have conflicts, goals, and dilemmas that often counteract or support the protagonist.

Craft

In this section, readers assess the writing itself, as a whole. In addition to general wordsmithery, this is where readers may examine the effectiveness of action description, character descriptions, any overuse of camera direction, “unfilmables,” and any cases of grammatical errors, typos, or improper formatting.

Dialogue

Though film is a visual medium, dialogue provides crucial textural reality and plays an important role in connecting the audience to the on-screen characters. Among the many questions we ask regarding dialogue, a couple include: Is dialogue used to differentiate and strengthen each character’s individuality? Do all the characters sound real and appropriate for their location, time period or background? 

Logic

A good story can be grounded in the principles that govern our reality or it can establish an entirely new set of rules to which the characters and events adhere. In this section, our readers assess how consistently the script applies its own rules and whether there are any gaping plot holes.

Originality

No screenplay is completely original, obviously, but every script should feel fresh and contribute something original to its genre. “Formulaic” need not mean “clichéd.” Even if a concept has been done 100 times before, it may be done again as long as the idea is richly presented and there’s a reason for the perspective.

Pacing

Like the logic category, the readers assess each script’s pacing on its own terms. Regardless of whether a story moves quickly or slowly, a well-paced screenplay times its major events so that there is a fair balance of tension and release. 

Premise

In this section, the readers assess the major characters and events with a focus on evaluating the central concept of the screenplay itself, as opposed to the execution of the idea. In the coverage, the readers summarize the core concept and opine as to its potential for providing conflict and growth, not its commercial viability.

Structure

The readers think of good structure as a plot that presents one coherent and complete story. In other words, does the beginning lead into a middle that leads to a satisfying conclusion? In addition to the story’s overall construction, the readers also assess the screenplay’s deeper, internal structural elements. 

Tone

Like Logic and Pacing, what the readers look for in the Tone section is consistency within the world established by the script itself. The easy way to think of this topic might be, “If it’s a comedy, is it funny? If it’s horror, is it scary?” They also look for tonal elements that are obviously out of place with the rest of the piece, tempered by an assessment of the writer’s intention.

When you enter your script into the Chicago Screenplay Awards, we guarantee your script gets a full read and that you receive feedback with your entry fee. However, we highly recommend getting Full Analysis. Full analysis will afford you a detailed breakdown of each of the 10 categories listed above. It’s the best way to get unbiased, objective, and professional notes to up your screenwriting game and take your skills to the next level!

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