How Do ScreenCraft Readers Judge a Script?

by Tom Dever - updated on August 16, 2022

ScreenCraft is dedicated to effective talent-discovery programs for emerging screenwriters. With competitions celebrating a multitude of genres and formats, ScreenCraft specializes in thoughtfully tailoring each jury and group of professional screenplay readers to each competition's genre or format. Our previous winners have signed with representatives at UTA, WME, CAA, Circle of Confusion, 3 Arts, Anonymous Content, Abrams Artists Agency, and many more.

Our talented team of professional readers are vital to our process. Writers submitting to our contests have asked what criteria we provide to our readers to assess each screenplay submission.

Below are the guidelines ScreenCraft readers use to judge and score screenplays during the competition:

Plot – Do the events of the story contain conflict, logic, and flow? Are the developments organic yet also surprising? Do you get the feeling of one event leading into another?

Character – Are the characters authentic and unique?  Do they have a satisfying arc? Do the characters feel realistic and believable? Do their emotions feel honest, sincere, and earned? Are they distinct from one another? Without necessarily being likable, are the characters interesting, specific, detailed, and do they hold the reader's attention?

Concept –Does the concept hook the reader? Is it easy to describe and easy to understand?  Does the premise elicit excitement, intrigue, and nuance?

Originality – How fresh are the story, characters, and ideas? Does the script create a surprising and unique emotional journey for the audience?  Does the writer manage to tell the story with unexpected details or themes dealt with in a new, emotionally satisfying, and relevant way?

Style – Is the writing easy to read, enjoyable, and consistent with the tone of the story? Is there a clear and distinct storytelling voice? Is the script enjoyable to read? Is the style an intrinsic part of the script’s value? Does the writer feel like the only one who could write this story in the script's unique style?

Structure – Is the overall story built in a way that is connective and logical and keep the reader want to know where it goes? Does the story build emotionally? Does the plot ebb and flow with dynamic range, and does it build to a climax? Does the reader feel pulled through by the story and captivated throughout?

Dialogue – Do the characters speak in a believable, unique, and interesting ways? Does the writer use subtext to deliver meaning? Does the dialogue reflect the tone and emotion of the scenes? Does the dialogue add texture (intrigue, humor, tension, dread) to the script? Does each character have a unique way of communicating?

Format – Does the writer display a proficient understanding of industry-standard screenwriting format? Are there virtually no spelling, grammatical, or formatting errors?

Pacing – Does the overall story move at an appropriate speed? Does the story contain any unnecessary scenes? Does the writer build momentum and emotion as the story progresses?

Theme – Does the writer have an interesting or unique perspective on some moral, human or cultural issue? Do they express it organically through the characters’ journeys? Does the story raise questions about what it means to be human and how a human life should be lived?

Tone – Does the writing convey an overall mood or feeling that enhances the storytelling in some way? Are the dialogue and narrative voice aligned with the mood and theme of the story? Does the writing evoke visual imagery akin to seeing it on the screen?

Catharsis – Does the ending of the story feel satisfactory for the narrative established by the writer? Does the ending release tension that is created and intensified throughout the arc of the story? Whether happy/sad, does the ending provide an emotional sense of completion and logical conclusion? Does it leave the reader feeling changed or emotionally transported in some way (meaningful laughter, sadness, anger, hopefulness)?

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