TSL Free Screenplay Contest Frequently Asked Questions

The 2020 TSL Free Screenwriting Competition had over 13,000 entries – over 1 million pages of story – entered this season! That’s more than any other screenwriting competition that we know of anywhere. The huge turnout for this year’s competition is a testament to the need for high quality, accessible talent-discovery programs in Hollywood. It’s also a testament to the recent growth of Coverfly as a marketplace for screenwriters to connect with top-tier talent-discovery programs and industry professionals. It’s exciting to be at the heart of such a quickly growing and vibrant community of creatives – and we’re looking forward to celebrating incredible talent in this year’s TSL Free Screenwriting Competition.

We want to answer as many of your burning questions as we can, since our normal support lines may be slower than normal because of the sheer size of this year’s program. Please review this information before reaching out to our customer support.

General Info:

If you’re just looking for general information about the program like dates, prizes, and the jury, there are two places where you can learn more:

  1. The Coverfly Submission Page
  2. The Script Lab Free Contest Page

The First Round Read:

For this free competition, submissions that did not purchase paid feedback received an initial first impression read, consisting of just the first few pages of each script. Your first few pages are especially important because many readers at studios and agencies make a decision about a script based on the first few pages. We asked entrants to submit their full screenplay, because the screenplays that advance to subsequent rounds will receive full evaluations from our judges.

Important: Entrants who paid for written feedback received a complete read of their script with their first round read – not just the first few pages.

Why did one of my scripts not receive a scorecard for the first round read?

If you don’t see a score breakdown for your submission on Coverfly, it’s for one of two reasons:

1.) This competition is only open to 1 entry per person submitting. If you entered more than one script, we still reviewed your first entry, but we didn’t read or score any subsequent submissions as they are disqualified per our program’s terms of service. 

2.) Your script was over 120 pages. Note: Because our rules page had a typo on it which erroneously stated that the page limit was 140 and not 120, if your script is between 120 and 140 pages, we’re retroactively scoring it (as of 7/22) and you should see a score within the next week (before 7/29). If the score qualifies you for the Quarterfinalist round, you will be notified.

My script was eliminated but it received higher scores than my friend’s submission that advanced. What gives?

We “normalize” reader scores. Basically, we can take a look at each reader’s average scores, and then adjust the scores internally to give us a better idea of the strength of the script based on how tough or lenient that reader tends to be. For example, if a reader tends to give all 9s and 10s, and then they give a script a 7, we won’t rank that script as highly as another script that received a 6.5 score from a reader who tends to only give 4s and 5s (on average).

If contests don’t do this, inevitably the contest becomes a crapshoot because there’s always one reader who gives everything only 8s, 9s, and 10s, so advancing in the competition just becomes a function of whether or not you get lucky and get that reader.

The scores you see are the original scores provided by the reader, not the normalized scores that we based our advancement/elimination decision on.

Your Scores:

The standard first impression read was judged in four categories:

  • Overall Impression
  • Hook
  • Descriptions & Readability
  • Professional Presentation

Your reader was mostly scoring based on how professional your pages were, how interesting your opening pages were, how compelling the hook was, and if they really wanted to keep reading after page 3 or 4. 

Also — our readers score on an average of about 5-6. So a 7 is a very good score, not a ‘D’. We don’t do A = 10, B = 9, C = 8, D = 7, like high school. We grade on a bell curve because it’s a better way to separate out the truly stand-out scripts. Most scripts will be average. A few scripts will be below average. And a few scripts will be above average. 

You can see your scores on your Coverfly dashboard if you create a Coverfly Account with the same email address that you used to submit your entry.

Will the first round read affect my Coverfly Score?

Yes, but not very much. Because the first read wasn’t done on the entire script, the scorecard is de-weighted in the Coverfly Score algorithm. It won’t make much of a difference on your Coverfly Score. If you advanced to the next round, your next read will have a stronger influence on your Coverfly Score.

What’s Next:

If you didn’t advance, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean you don’t have a great script. It simply means the reader assigned to your script didn’t connect with it. Many of you will go on to place in other competitions with that exact same script. It just means your particular reader in this particular competition didn’t connect with it in meaningful way. We’re running the program again and would love to give your script a fresh reader and another shot in a future cycle. Stay tuned for when we open again next year! 

If you did advance, look out for an email from Coverfly which will provide brief directions on how to update your draft or request optional written notes from your next round judge if you’re interested.

We are not able to retroactively provide notes for your first round.

We have a few more announcements coming up. Here’s when to expect more news:

  • Semifinalists — August 12th, 2020
  • Finalists — September 2nd, 2020
  • Winners — September 30th, 2020

What About my Status on Coverfly?

While your placement should be visible on Coverfly on July 22nd after 10am PST, you won’t see an impact to your Coverfly Score until as late as July 25th. Because this is a first impression read, you should expect the impact to be relatively minimal on your Coverfly Score.

If you don’t see your entry, please make sure you’re logged in with the same email address as you used to submit your project. If you have questions about your Coverfly account, please check out Coverfly’s FAQs here.

Thank you again for sharing your work. We’re so impressed by all the talented writers out there. Congrats to everyone who submitted — you’ve finished at least one screenplay which is a big accomplishment in itself. It’s a long journey, but you’re starting strong. We’re here to help along the way. Consider our partner programs for excellent script development expertise: 

Happy writing!