Thursday, October 01, 2009

How the CS Open wasted my time

Well I just wasted a ridiculous amount of my time.

If you went to the long list of instructions for the Cyberspace Open, one of the things it says on the page is to include a cover page. Then weeks after the contest was announced, if you had signed up you got an email with instructions that did not mention a cover page. Then after they realize their system was fucked up you got a second email with completely different instructions that did not mention a cover page. Did they mention a cover page at some point? Yes. Was it in their final submission instructions, either in email form or on the actual submission page? No.

So I forgot the cover page. They wanted your name and your order number on the file name so I did that, thinking that must be how they identified the entries. I followed carefully all the instructions on the actual submission page. I submitted early at 5pm on Sunday.

Then I reread the instructions on the website and realized I was supposed to have a cover page, so I emailed the contact address and asked if this was a problem and was there anything I could do about it - the deadline had still not passed at this point. I should have gone back and read the instructions on the website before I entered, I know that. It's just so confusing when you receive three different sets of instructions. Anyway, I received no response.

Then I never got my feedback. I waited and waited and waited and thought I was just somehow at the bottom of the pile.

This morning, they sent out the list of people who would advance to the next round followed by about a thousand reasons entries were disqualified. I guess they ran out of time and decided disqualifying mass amounts of people was the best way to fix the problem. And guess what one reason for disqualification is? No cover page.

My entry number is not on the list they posted, but they also said it was a partial list. They also say that plenty of people managed to resubmit their scenes, implying that you should have done the same if you screwed up. Yet on the last email and on the submission page, they specifically state not to resubmit or you will be disqualified.

I'm just so super excited about how much time and effort I wasted on this bullshit. I put aside working on my screenplay to make sure I wrote a good contest entry.

You know, every fucking year I sing the praises of the Expo. And every fucking year they pull the same shit - disorganized as hell. Last year's Expo screenplay contest was a mess. They announced the grand prize winner early so everybody left before they announced the other winners and they never did announce two contests winners at all. I've heard even if you do win, the prize pack never goes out. You get your money, but none of the famous exposure they brag so much about.

Then there's the actual Expo, where in years past speakers haven't had the right technical supplies or even white boards to work with, or the rules keep changing to make it harder for you to see the right speakers, but the price keeps going up. Or the fact that the volunteers are treated like shit so they don't show up, which means there is nobody to take tickets, so the people who paid extra for the Gold pass get into the same sessions as the people who didn't pay for a ticket. Every year a different set of problems caused by a lack of proper planning.

Supposedly disqualified entries will get a refund. Sure. I'm sure an organization that has this much trouble getting its shit together will be all over giving me back my $12.

Over at Done Deal some people are saying they followed all instructions to the letter and still didn't receive a score, and received no explanation as to why.

Hey Creative Screenwriting, get your shit together.

Fuck this. I'm done.


  1. S'all bullshit anyway...

    The Expo is a good deal as long as you pick the RIGHT speakers... Otherwise it can be one long infomercial for screenwriting services and products.

    Except for contests that can actually get your script read and into the hands of real people who make movies, it IS a waste of time.


  2. And people tell me I shouldn't give up on contests.


  3. Anonymous12:54 PM

    Oh man, I agree. I called this morning and said where is my score? I did everything to the letter, and took time away from family and job. They had NO reason I did not get a score bt said they have no more time, so will give a refund. I don't care about the $12, I want my time back! I think you're right...they ran out of time and just started knocking people out for no reason. I was told there were 1,700 entries.


  4. Anonymous1:29 PM

    You shouldn't feel too bad about not having a cover page because I'm in the exact same boat as DH...submitted everything perfectly and no score and no explanation. I know of at least 3 other people with the exact same issue. My favorite part is how they go on and on about how much they tried to accommodate everyone who had tech issues...and yet, they can't seem to accommodate those of us who were unfortunate enough to enter properly and on time. What a frustrating mess.

  5. Agreed. And I love how indignant they sound on the website, as if we're all rude little assholes for expecting them to deliver on their promise.

    I wrote a nasty letter, which may or may not be the reason my money was already refunded. They didn't comment yet, just gave me back my money.

  6. Anonymous3:42 PM

    I'm on the phone with a friend who played by all the rules and didn't get any kind of score. She isn't on the list but just got the email telling her the premise for round two. Are they sending the premises to everyone?

  7. You mean their instructions are still confusing? GASP!

    Yeah they're sending it to everybody.

  8. Anonymous7:29 PM

    Thanks for posting this. I followed every (confusing and complicated) entry rule I could find including cover page and still heard nothing. That they can send the Round Two info to me is salt in the wound. How come I can get their general info but they won't respond to my requests for information that started yesterday, when they maybe could have rectified the situation? I'm with those who'd like their time back. The money I spent doesn't cover the aggravation I've suffered.

  9. At least a word of apology would be cool.

  10. I posted what I think here:

    I am not taking a refund. I know JC and I think I deserve to know what my scores are. They've got them- I wasn't on the DQ list, so they've got them.
    The article I wrote about the Open for Creative Screenwriting shows how much I love this comp- but if it's going to be this fucked-up, well...

  11. I'm on the disqualified list for lack of coverpage (Damn FD8 for that not being automatically set that way and me not paying attention!). I'd chalk it up but apparently some people got e-mailed back and asked to resubmit according to their post.

    That's just uncool that they were so unorganized some people got special privledges. And I worked really hard on my scene and I wanted someone to read it. It chaps my buttocks that it wasn't even read!

  12. Thanks for the link to your post Emily. It's good to see things from the other side.

    I do agree, the e-mails were, and still are considering we've all got the second premise(!), extremely confusing. Not all e-mails contain all the information, but they did say to follow the instructions on the website.

    I only entered for the practice at working to a real deadline and I feel that I got what I paid for, but if the organisers are going to run this contest on the internet again, they clearly have a lot of work to do on tidying up the processes.

  13. I also entered, did everything properly, and received no word back. Today at 3 am est (midnight LA time) the two scores showed up, so either they did grade some and didn't send them out, or today they graded a bunch after the announcement just so they wouldn't have to give the money back. I received an 89 & 91 for my 2 scenes, and probably deserved those grades, but I can't help and wonder if they graded a bunch after the deadline and made sure none of these newly graded ones got the magic 93...anyway, I did wake up and suddenly have grades and comments (which were specific enough it was clear they had read the scenes)...

  14. Anonymous5:58 AM

    I'm one of the ones that didn't get my score and eventually I e-mailed Jim Cirile at Coverage Ink as well as Creative Screenwriting. I heard nothing from CS, of course, except for that blanket refund e-mail, but Jim Cirile actually responded to me within 5 minutes and actually got me my score: He was actually very nice and seemed genuinely apologetic, which is more than I can say for Creative Screenwriting who continue to write e-mails that goes something like this: "We didn't think we needed to say this, but judging by calls to our office, evidently we did:
    If you didn't score 93 or higher, DO NOT SUBMIT A ROUND 2 ENTRY."

    I didn't think I needed to say this, but how hard is it to actually read 5 pages from ALL of the contestants who entered your screenwriting competition? Or to consider some of the other reasons that you might provoke people to call your office...especially when, I don't know, you accuse them of not properly following up? Or to even isolate the 130 people who made it through and just e-mail them?

    At this point, I do have to laugh at them. And mock them. Endlessly. I can't wait for the next installment...

  15. KevinD6:45 PM

    Emily, sorry for your experience. I'm not trying to rub salt in your wounds, but I checked the contest webpage right before submitting, just to be double-sure I had everything perfectly kosher, and the cover-page requirement was covered explicitly. IMO, they have a valid defense on that point. What they certainly can't defend so easily is the arbitrariness of resubmits and the many lost entries (see the Screenwriting Goldmine forum for some upsetting details on that). What I don't understand is how they weren't ready for this onslaught -- they collected registration well ahead of the tourney start so they should've had a list of entrants and a headcount. And they probably should've had their judging scheduled with reasonable throughput expectations so that they could make their deadlines (or at least know well ahead of time to move them). I feel like I dodged a major bullet because I got scores&feedback very quickly. I was fortunate enough to make the second round but had 2 questions, which I emailed at the beginning of the round to the supposed "Questions?" email (csopen@...), but still have not received any response and now the round is well over.

    It sounds like Jim Cirile should be kept on speed-dial for next year's contest, assuming there is one.



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