Saturday, December 2, 2017

Flattery will get you almost anywhere

In this case it got me to the second round.

I've submitted my Better Call Saul spec that I wrote in the UCLA Extension classes earlier this year to a number of competitions and workshops, and today I got some great feedback from one of them.

The script made it to the second round of the TV writing competition at the Austin Film Festival, but didn't advance beyond that. I'd been notified of that some time ago, but I just received the feedback from both first and second round judges and I have to say, I'm pretty pleased with it.

Initial reader

Concept: Fabulous idea for this show. Better Call Saul has such a profound vision that I believe writing a spec for it is a really big undertaking. This episode feels like it would fit in nicely with others in the series.

Plot: This was such a captivating narrative. The writer really handles all of the moving parts with expertise. This felt like I was reading an actual episode of Better Call Saul. I particularly loved the twist with Mike and the hit job.


Structure: The structure is great. The teaser is done really well and mimics the structure of Better Call Saul beautifully. The pacing was great--this didn't feel like it dragged on. The story was told clearly. This spec turned out to be a wonderful reading experience.

Characters: The characters act as they would within the series. Jimmy does what he does best--run a scam-- to get out of a bad situation. The original character, Chelsea, is developed nicely. She doesn't feel one note and interacts well in the universe of Better Call Saul.

Dialogue: This exhibits some really, really tight dialogue. None of the lines drag on or feel indulgent. I particularly liked the story Chuck told about the girl who picked up the snake. That was a great, totally Chuck bit that enhanced the story nicely. The dialogue feels authentic overall and is done very well.

Overall: Overall, this is a great spec script. The writer really understands all aspects of Better Call Saul--the characters, the dialogue, the pacing, the structure, the complicated relationships, etc. I really enjoyed reading this. This was a really well done self-contained episode full of the writer’s smart choices. This episode is written concisely yet thoroughly. I thought the teaser was a great addition that had more and more meaning as the episode progressed. The writer really understood and exhibited Jimmy and Chuck’s complicated relationship in only one episode. It was also a clever idea to pit Jimmy against a character like Chelsea, and to see Chelsea get taken down in true Jimmy fashion. My only note, and it’s just a brief technical one, is that “Sphinx” is misspelled in the middle of page 35. This was a great reading experience.


Second Round reader

Concept: Conceptually, this spec fits Better Call Saul very well. Jimmy scams his way out of scam. I could see this story playing out very nicely on the show without interrupting the overall story/character arcs in place.

Plot: Jimmy is hired to help a woman get what she sees has her rightful share of an inheritance. This same woman hires Mike to kill her family who has already hired Mike to protect them from her. Overall, great tie-ins within the story. My only issue would be how the teaser relates to the rest of the script. Is it just to show Saul was a screw up and a scammer. It might be better to show something relating to his family in the past instead.

Structure: Jimmy is hired to help a woman get what she sees has her rightful share of an inheritance. This same woman hires Mike to kill her family who has already hired Mike to protect them from her. Overall, great tie-ins within the story. My only issue would be how the teaser relates to the rest of the script. Is it just to show Saul was a screw up and a scammer. It might be better to show something relating to his family in the past instead.

Characters: The characters also fit the show nicely especially Mike. Series regulars are spot on. The major introduced character, Chelsea, is developed well enough to hold her own in the story, but perhaps more could be done to give her layers and add to her crazy.

Dialogue: The dialogue is very good and would fit the BCS world. Some interactions between Jimmy and Chelsea are repetitive. More could be done to vary these interactions and even further build on the story and characters.



Overall: Overall, this is a great spec for a Better Call Saul episode and a solid second round script. (Also nice title. ) A believable story is presented using all the regular players and introducing a crafty character that ties to Jimmy’s practice, Mike’s side business, and even to HHM. Though the teaser does demonstrate that Jimmy has a history as a scammer, we already know that. It might make more sense to show something that relates to his commiserating with Chelsea as the family black sheep. Chuck’s message that Jimmy can only work an angle to solve a problem instead of using sound judgment and legal means is hard hitting. The script could also use some proofreading. Otherwise, this spec was an enjoyable read and a story that I’d love to see on the show.

Not too shabby, eh?

This spec is still out to a couple other contests. I hope they're liking it as much as these guys did.

I also submitted a short story this week to an anthology from Mystery Writers of America. They will announce which stories were accepted early to mid 2018.

And that's it for 2017 submissions. I'm working on a master list of markets for next year and my plan is to submit as much as possible.

Happy writing, everyone!

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