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.
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.
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.
Hi all - did anyone else enter this competition here. I got shortlisted (Whoop!) - although my email said they're not providing individual feedback. Which is a bit bizarre as I kinda thought that would be one of the benefits of paying for entrY!
Hey guy! I want to tell you that you've been a perfect gentleman and I hope you stick around. As you are well aware, we both have seen these fee-threads explode like the Middle East. But it didn't. Nor should it. Thank you.
I just want to make it very clear I was in no way criticising Humana for only accepting American plays - and I was in no way criticising Humana at all ! In fact I'm really keen to go over there and see it next year to learn how they do things.
I was merely replying to someone else attacking our FEES policy who said that we should be like Humana an accept free entries from everywhere, no restrictions - for free.
But the fact is Humana do have a restriction. It's only open to American playwrights.
I completely understand that and accept it. Not criticising it at all. We are open to writers from all over the globe - no restriction there - but we do charge fees - which as many have pointed out is a restriction.
Been following this with great interest, as the question of fees erupts from time to time. In general, I personally oppose them, for all the reasons Alex listed in his preemptive first post. But to answer his repeated question: The Humana Festival in Louisville is The Humana Festival of New American Plays. See http://www.actorstheatre.org/humana.htm
Perhaps that's why they don't accept Australian plays? Or Canadian ones either (and Paddy, your plays that I've had the privilege of reading are superior to the general level of work at Humana). One might fault Actors Theatre for having a New American Plays Festival rather than a New Plays Festival, but there it is. It's their festival and they get the right to define it.
I still find it difficult to charge fees for writers, and not do so for directors, actors, designers, and dramaturgs. Having run a couple of fee-less play competitions, it is indeed a challenge to develop a process that is both fair to the writers and manageable to adminster. But it can be done. The last Eileen Heckart Drama for Seniors competition had 459 entries, which meant I had to find over a hundred theatre professionals to evaluate the entries. The reason for creating such competitions justifies the effort.
Re: Vote on entry fees. Yes, as a separate category.
Re: Short and Sweet
I've entered Short and Sweet two years running, and I haven't made it into any seriously contending level.
However, I was impressed by the organization, enthusiasm, professionalism of the people involved. They were very generous in providing all entrants ($15 per entry) a detailed and lengthy piece on what they were looking for in a winning play. I found this to be most instructive in my writing.
A friend of mine who lived down under said the Aussies might be contemptuous of North American values, however. The chief aim of Aussies is to cut big egos off at the knee caps, North Americans in particular. They are as tough on themselves as they are outsiders. This is their way of evening the playing field. They just want authentic work. No fluff. I'm not entering this year because I don't believe I have anything that could win place or show. I would love to see their festival of all the winning plays!
As a moderator I try to stay out of the more provocative threads, but I wanted to jump in on this one.
I am very pleased to hear of your success and I am fairly certain that there are many who share the success you have found at Short & Sweet. That said, I don't believe anyone remotely suggested that those paying fees and finding success were inferior in any way. The suggestion, I believe, was that it limited the number of quality plays, but certainly did not eliminate quality plays by quality playwrights--as your example shows us. As a full time working playwright, I believe that fees keep professional playwrights from entering. But then I don't believe Alex's festival is for professional playwrights, but more designed to nurture and encourage emerging playwrights. Some, as myself, feel that most playwrights really can't afford to send more than a couple scripts out to those charging fees.
I applaud Alex for standing behind what he believes. I applaud all who stand behind what they believe. Furthermore, because your success is directly attributed to Short & Sweet I am not laughing, as you suggested we might. I sincerely doubt that any of us are laughing. We're applauding you and wishing you more and more success. Bravo! And all the best in your future writing.
I Just came across this accidentally and I am pretty amused. I have never, ever, responded to a forum topic on any site but I had to have a say here.
I have had some success with Short and Sweet. It was one of my first real successes as a playwright and it has given me confidence that wasn't previously there in my writing.
According to a few people in this forum my success in Short and Sweet is an inferior success.
Because I paid for my play to be entered my work is somehow inferior?
I am a young father with a mortgage and all of my income is derived from working in the arts - I don't have a lot of money. However, I will be submitting multiple scripts into S&S because I've been given the drive to create them. I love the fact that S&S allows more than one entry because, not only do I have a lot to say, I like to write in a number of styles. Whether it be a political/drama or an absurdist comedy, I don't want to have to choose which 10 minute piece best represents me. I want all of my work judged on individual merit.
How can anyone suggest that being able to submit more than one play lowers the quality when a truly gifted playwright can be represented multiple times?
The play I submitted last year, my first ever 10 minute play, has now been produced five times and has travelled further in the world than I have - due to Short and Sweet. $15 - your laughing.
Screenplaywriter, welcome to our forum. Please take advantage of all our forum has to offer--Paddy's playwrighting exercises, my contests, the Green Room Salon series with celebrity guests, etc. I have moved your post to this thread since you posted it in an area used by management. Enjoy our forum. Again, welcome.
I found this site by chance. Sometimes I can get lucky! I read all the hype regarding the SHORT AND SWEET $15 entry fee.
This is the third successive year I have submitted plays to the short and sweet festival. I've been fortunate the last two years to at least have made it in the 'best of the rest and wilcards series'. I usually send multiple plays. By no means am I rolling in money but I feel the $15 entry fee is very acceptable. What this competition has done is to inspire me, give me the confidence to continue writing knowing that there are professional assessors and not just buddies of mine who read my work and say.. yeah.. it's great! or no. it's crap! These people KNOW what they are talking about! I applaude Alex Broun and Mark Cleary.
I wouldn't enter any 'free' competition.. the cliche is right.. "you only get what you pay for' and usually when something is free.. there is always a bigger price to pay in the end.
The playwrights who object to such a fee.. I have a little 'free' advice.. don't enter!
It makes more sense to me that having to pay a fee (no matter the amount) only encourages the 'serious' playwrights. by that I mean those who will try their best to meet the criteria set out and to write well. This is not determined by experience, it's about passion and a need to write! If it was free then as Alex pointed out, they're be so many scripts.. half would probably be incomplete and not meet the criteria (as it is..some playwrights still do!) and the sheer volume would be too great. Knowing you need to pay for each script will encourage you to do the best you can with each entry.
I'll get off my soap box now and complete rewriting the plays to enter this year.
Very happy to see England retain the Ashes - Aussie cricket team are dickheads - but seeing our whole theatre culture wiped out as "amdram" is a little bit much. Yes, our theatre is not as vibrant and strong as the UK but it's hardly all "amdram."
He might like to check out the following PROFESSIONAL theatre companies, we have over 100:
Sydney Theatre Company
Melbourne Theatre Company
State Theatre Company of South Australia
Griffin Theatre Company
Belvoir Street Theatre Company (toured Cloud Street to the National a few years ago - fancy Amdram at the National)
Queensland Theatre Company
Perth Theatre Company
You might also like to tell him if he was able to get a play on at the Sydney Theatre Company or Melbourne Theatre Company (where plays often gross over AUS$1 million) he would get over AUS $100,000 (GBP 30,000 in royalties.)
Yes it's a small market but we're not all "amdram". Please !!!
My life is infinitely richer for reading Jays Plays witty and erudite comments such as Australia is mainly "Amdram". Well known writer are they ? With great success no doubt. Now I have to defend Short & Sweet on two fronts. Bless !
Good question. Defining theatricality is like defining what is theatre, which is of course difficult.
By theatricality I mean does it make use (cleverly or otherwise) of the theatrical medium - i.e, is it written for the stage and does it encourage the audience to use their imagination to complete the world of the play and thus particpate actively in the theatre making process by watching the play.
That is they are using their minds to join in the process of making theatre with the actors, writers and directors.
Shakespeare is the master of this I guess - now we're on a battlfield, now we're in Rome, now we're in a bedroom. All done through story telling and language.
Another example, a play like Trough which we had last year in Short & Sweet where the three actors played Urinal cakes discussing self esteem (won Best Comedy in Melbourne) is more theatrical than say a play set in a living room or kitchen with a couple arguing about their relationship.
But then this can be theatrical if they are both using baseball bats and are in roving spotlights and there have been some great plays set in living rooms and kitchens: Death of a Salesman, Streetcar Named Desire, Long Day's Journey into Night - to name three.
Perhaps the best way to put it is why should what you have written be performed on stage ? And why is it better suited to be performed on stage rather than TV, film or radio. Does it make good use of the theatrical medium - skills of the actors to use their emotions, voice and transform their bodies, lights and sound - to tell its story ?
It's a tricky one - defining what is theatre is tricky - but hopefully this helps. It's really a discussion we could have a three day symposium on - many of course do - but to summarise to me theatricality is a play where the writer uses theatrical techniques to invite the audience to engage their imaginations and participate actively in the theatre making process while watching the play.
Everyone will have their own definition - this is mine.
I have just reread a short piece i have which timed out at 10 min, perfect! (length at least). But i realised that it contains a couple of UK based references - such as the use of £ and terms like 'full English breakfast'. Should i submit it as is, or do you think it would stand a better chance of success if i 'Australianised' it?
Thanks for your comments. I'm not sure we'd get any less of a glut of plays if we opened up free entries.
Indeed if we did open up free entries I'd have 500 emailed to me in the next 24 hours - just for a start - and there is no way we could deal with that number with our thorough assessment process.
An assessment process Which WILL NOT be watered down so we can take more entries. Assessment process stays! No matter what. That's non-negotiable or else we become like many other crap contests out there.
I know you didn't put this point but the next person will - so in advance - what is the point of giving free entries if plays are then not assessed properly? You could get 10,000 plays but if they're not assessed thoroughly you might as well have ten entries. I know some competitions where they read the first page and then discard them if they don't like it !
I as a writer hate to be treated like that. Yes we do charge entry fees but we treat every entry with respect and each play is assessed by two seperate assessors. Some are read up to four times.
That's how I'd like my work treated. $15 is a small price to pay for that - I think. And I know you disagree ! But that's what I think.
Re what we look for - yes we are always interested in theatricality at Short & Sweet. Not TV on stage as many entries are. That's why "Theatricality" is one of our five key criteria.
I understand that you think the plays you receive are good, but I am still strongly of the opinion that they would be far BETTER if you didn't charge a fee. In fact, your own admission is that charging a fee limits the number of submissions you receive. My experience tells me that you are forgoing the higher quality plays while taking in a glut of lower quality plays.
All that said, I believe the problems of the world of theater run far deeper than your contest charging fees. Most notably, the few times I have seen recent "judging forms" for competitions, they were set up in such a way that only trite realism could even potentially win based on how the scoring system worked. They asked for "fully rounded characters" etc. No more Waiting for Godots to be found that way. I trust your criteria of "Story, Character, Dialogue, Theatricality, Conflict" are worded in such as way as to accomodate creative and powerful writing.
PS its PapadOOloo. Old joke from when I was a newspaper reporter.
I watch this thread carefully and I must say that it is profoundly satisfying to see how you all have dealt with this issue in a respectful manner. We've come a long way--nobody gets hurt and we have a forum we're proud to invite our fellow playwrights to join. Bravo!
Thanks for your email. And we never complain about the standard of our entries. In fact I'm always pleasantly surprised about how good the plays we get are. I wish we could do more. There's always good plays left undone.
It's possible our motive is to give writers a chance to have their work performed not to grab a few shekels through entry fees. Again no one down here has an issue with it. To enter the ANPC - our national playwright's conference funded by the Government you have to pay $45.
Maybe because John Howard is our PM.
And oh Jon - one more thing - what are the prizes for that American playwrights only competition again ?
We haven't had that many from the UK and it would be great to get some good ten minute plays from that part of the world. We don't get many.
You guys must have too long attention spans.
And hi Edd - wouldn't call it fun. Just use to the barrage so have most of the answers now. No response yet from Jon about Louisville not accepting entries from Australian playwrights.
Bw, Alex Broun from Short & Sweet the fee charging international playwriting competition
PS: Don't you guys have script assessing services there that you have to pay for ? Doesn't anybody ever use those ? Isn't that paying to have your script read ? (And no - we don't offer individual assessments but we do give general feedback to writers. Answered that one too.)
Actually we did about 10 US plays in total in Sydney and Melbourne. Binding Love, a Chicago play was actually done in Sydney and Melbourne - and is now the writer is working with a Melbourne company on a longer version of the work.
See Short & Sweet does open up new markets for writers !
One US play this year - Key to the Mystic Halls of Time - was even included in our professional wing Shorter & Sweeter (best of series) and toured to the Sydney Opera House and Singapore with the writer receiving a royalty.