Let me quote from the gentleman who posted the short & sweet announcement:
PLEASE NOTE: Due to the large number of entries received for Short & Sweet Melbourne it is impossible to give writers individual feedback on their script. However a GENERAL WRITERS FEEDBACK report will be emailed to all who entered as well as made available on the Short & Sweet website once shortlisting has been completed.
If it's ok I won't say on here as I prefer to retain my anonymity. Although actually I could do with your advice. My piece is currently listed under my actual name but I was wondering if it's possible to apply a pen-name instead, and if so how would I go about it.
Yes, I got the general feedback - it's very useful stuff, although difficult to know which faults you are guilty of. Some are clear enough but it's always a bit difficult to take a step back from your own work and be brutal about it. The advice is very useful though.
In all we received slightly less overall entries (down to 815 from 866 last year) but there was a slight rise in Victorian entries (up to 511 from 496 last year ).
We received less entries from the USA (down from 86 to 53) and NSW (down from 234 to 166). The full entry breakdown was: Australia: 726 (VIC 511, NSW 166, Qld 20, ACT 14, WA 10, SA 5), Overseas: 89 (USA 53, UK 14, Canada 9, New Zealand 7, Singapore 2, Zimbabwe 2, Italy 1, Austria 1.)
Overall the standard of entries for 2006 was higher than entries received for 2005.
What was most pleasing about this year’s crop of entries were writers were far more adventurous with their choice of characters, setting or subject matter, with us receiving a number of plays that could be truly classed as unique.
Writers seemed less hamstrung by the ten minute format and were more ambitious in the stories they chose to tell, the number of characters they used and the way they chose to tell them.
There were far less “sketches” or “one line gags” stretched out to ten minutes with even many of the comedies tackling big ideas or difficult issues.
Perhaps with the world as it is all of us are refecting on life and our place in it and searching for answers to very big questions. This was clearly reflected in the entries with writers provoking, challenging and really giving us something to think about !
Overall the plays were far more theatrical than last year with writers becoming more aware of the differences of writing for the stage as contrasted to writing for TV, film or prose.
There were less “talking head” plays with writers making more use of theatrical language, physical and visual, to tell their stories. That being said plays with well written, unique dialogue were often clear standouts.
As one assessor put it: “For me economy and efficiency is always a key element to good writing and it could not be more true with a 10 minute piece. Make every word count, and add to the picture you are painting.”
There was a wide cross section of themes tackled in this year’s entries with as usual many plays tackling relationships between men and women, in and outside marriage. There was also a number of plays about sex, of numerous different persuasions (and at times very frank.)
Another strong theme was the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, with over twenty plays received on issues of reconciliation and “white guilt”. Many of these were also well executed and so scored highly with assessors.
Overall formatting was also improved with many writers setting out their play as suggested in the Short & Sweet suggested format. Some writers though continued to set out their plays in film format (including “CUTS” and “FADES”) or their setting out was confusing or even worse – difficult to read. Not helpful in the assessing process.
Some common failings:
* Strong start but where’s the finish ?: Nearly all of the plays entered to Short & Sweet had strong premises or starting points and promised much in the early pages. This is great as it shows writers have something to say and are not short of ideas.
But sadly many plays failed to deliver on that promise with the play losing its way in the middle and end. Overall starts were stronger than finishes in many entries.
There was also a tendency for writers to tack on a surprise “twist” ending, when it was unnecessary or came out of nowhere going against what had been set up earlier in the play. As one assessor put it:
“A lot of scripts have great stories then seem to want to have a surprising or crafty ending which comes off badly in the context of the rest of the play. Don’t just add on something to shock the reader unless it is integrated in to the whole. Some good writing can be severely penalized for a nonsensical ending. As a 10 min play, regardless of form, the ‘story’ or development of themes is really important and it is possibly better to have a more expected ending than to have an ending that doesn’t fit.”
* Undeveloped, unfinished: Similar to this many plays had good story lines, characters and ideas fighting to get out but they were lost in poor dialogue, weak structure or unclear storyline.
Many of these problems would have been solved by the writer doing another draft of their play or doing a little workshopping on their text. Although it is a ten minute play the development process is very similar as with full length work. You wouldn’t expect to write a full length play perfect first time and it is the same with ten minute plays. They need time for you to receive feedback, work on re-writes, polish. With so many entries received to Short & Sweet a good idea is not enough to carry you to production. You need a strong idea which is also executed well to give you the best chance in Short & Sweet.
There were a lot of good ideas in entries this year but not that many were also executed well.
* Too long or too short: Writers still have a lot of trouble determining the length of their play with many plays clearly well over ten minutes and others going along well before suddenly stopping at the six or seven minute mark.
The best way to work out the time of your play is to - time it ! Read it out loud yourself or get some friends (or actors) around to read it. It’s only once you hear it out loud that you can get an idea of the running time.
* Too much set, too many stage directions: Far too many plays still called for elaborate sets such as fully furnished kitchens and lounge rooms (or both !) which are not possible in Short & Sweet. We present ten – ten minute plays per night of Short & Sweet and change overs must happen in thirty seconds or less. Thus elaborate sets are not possible.
As stated in the Hints and Tips for Writers on the website http://www.theartscentre.net.au/shortandsweet it’s best to just say “Kitchen” or “Bedroom” and leave the rest up to the director. Only state what is absolutely necessary for your play.
There was also a tendency for writers to put too many stage directions or instructions in their text. As one assessor put it:
“There are still lots of writers trying to direct the every move of actors as well as the total set design on stage in the production. I understand that some physical scoring may be pertinent to the content of the play but in this event it needs to be carefully and concisely written. Direction should be primarily left to the director.”
I hope you find this feedback helpful in preparing your entry for next year’s Short & Sweet. Below you will find a full breakdown on the assessment process.
The Short & Sweet Assessment panel consisted of experienced industry professionals based in Victoria drawn from the fields of dramaturgy, writing, directing or acting.
In all, the panel consisted of 14 assessors who read up to 200 plays each and were paid a small fee by the Arts Centre for their assessment of scripts.
The Assessment Process
Every play entered to Short & Sweet was read by at least two assessors.
All plays were assessed anonymously with all names of writers removed from scripts before being sent to assessors.
All assessments were carried out by filling out a standard Short & Sweet Script Assessment Form. On this form assessors were asked to assess the play on the following FIVE (5) criteria: Story, Character, Dialogue, Theatricality and Dramatic Tension, ranking each play either Very Good, Good, Average, Poor or Very Poor in each of those five criteria.
Based on the rankings of the five criteria the assessors were then asked to score the play out of a possible TEN (10) points with 10 being excellent, 5 average and 0 very poor.
The forms were then returned to Short & Sweet where the scores of each play are recorded on a central tally form.
There were three stages to our assessment process:
Stage 1 – Initial Assessment
In the first stage of assessment every play submitted to Short & Sweet was read by two assessors.
Once both scores were received the combined scores were averaged and plays that averaged 5 OR ABOVE went through to the second assessing round.
Plays that averaged LESS THAN 5 were eliminated at this stage and not assessed further.
There was one exception to this rule:
- Score Discrepancy: Where it was clear two assessors had varied greatly on the score of a play and the play received a difference in score of 4 OR MORE from its two assessments (i.e.: One Assessor scores it a 2, another Assessor scores it a 7) that play passed through to Stage 2 for further assessment.
Stage 2: Secondary Assessment
Plays that have passed through Stage 1 are then passed to a Third Assessor who once again assesses each script based on the above procedure.
They then forward back forms and scores to Short & Sweet.
These scores are then entered in to the Central Tally form and plays that average 6 OR MORE pass through to Stage 3 and are termed to be SHORTLISTED. Plays that average LESS THAN 6 are eliminated at this stage.
Once Stage 2 is completed writers are informed that their play has been shortlisted for Short & Sweet Melbourne 2006. Unsuccessful writers are also informed. The Arts Centre may also wish to publish a list of shortlisted plays at this stage.
Stage 3 – Final Assessment
Scripts that have passed through to Stage 3 are deemed to have been SHORTLISTED for Short & Sweet.
These plays are then read by the Artistic co-ordinator who once again assesses the plays on the procedure outlined above and scores all plays again out of ten.
These scores are then added to the Central Tally Sheet.
After the play has been read four times the final assessment score for the play is determined by the following:
The highest and the lowest scores are deducted and the remaining two scores are added together and averaged to determine a play’s final assessment score. The plays are then ranked in order from the highest score to the lowest.
The top 60 plays on the list – less the number of Independent Theatre Company submissions accepted for the season - are then forwarded to the Short & Sweet Directors.
The final play selection for Short & Sweet is determined by our Short & Sweet Directors.
Once the Top 30 and Wildcard Directors are selected the final selection of plays are then forwarded to them to read.
Each Director then reads the plays and they inform Short & Sweet of their top THREE preferences – in order – of the plays they would like to direct.
Top 30 director’s preferences are allocated first followed by Wildcard directors. Where possible, Short & Sweet will hope to give directors their first preference.
Once all directors have been assigned plays the season will be finalised and Short & Sweet will programme plays in to certain weeks depending on director availability and overall composition of the festival (i.e. determining there is a good balance of theatrical styles in each individual program of plays).
Shortlisted writers are then informed of whether their play has been included in the final season for Short & Sweet.