The top screenplays as judged by competition and industry readers


Everyday well-written, strong concepts get passed over by decision makers and competitions, it’s not personal (usually), it’s business.

As a reader, I am always disappointed when a script that I feel is worth championing forward doesn’t make it to the finish line. It’s so rare when a really great script lands with me, so when one does I keep my eye out for its progress. But what happens when there’s a great script out there that doesn’t win that competition or get that option or coveted sale? In my opinion, these writers deserve a shout out and perhaps a second chance.

The top screenplays as judged by competition and industry readers

THE READERS’ LIST is not like the annual Black List, of favorite reads of the year’s unproduced screenplays, where the bulk of the writers are already repped and some of the scripts are already being shopped or are in pre-production. There are many other lists, some genre specific, some age or “gasp” competition specific. Dear Writer, I implore you to do your due diligence on services that also run screenplay competitions and run a list under another name.

THE READERS’ LIST is simply a list of scripts that readers found worthy of consideration, some scripts may have gone on to win, place, or sell, some may have not.


Thus far in 2021, I have read close to 500 screenplays from emerging writers. About 80% of these were in the various contests that I provide services to as a late rounds reader. The others come from coverage services that I provide through various entities, some are submissions for first look deals, some are “notes for hire” through my own development company, some are rewrites from the competitions where the writer has tracked me down because of my feedback and wants to continue working with me, and lastly some are favors or pro-bono; (every month I accept 5 scripts to read for free). I have been doing this for 12 years for many top tier competitions based on my judgment and story development skills, and it makes up a small portion of my income. I am very selective as to which competition or service I will work for as my day job is as a producer and writer so I am quite busy.

Two things struck me as this year’s competitions came to a close and winners were announced;

Of all the screenplays I read for the competitions, I only pegged two as contenders to win, and they did not. One of these scripts in fact, was sent to me for notes the writer paid for, but it was sent to me after the quarter-finalists were announced and the script had not advanced that far. I’m sure the writer’s agonizing defeat was somewhat pacified when they got my notes, but it doesn’t take the suck out of it. Scripts and stories are subjective, and as mentioned, wonderful scripts get passed over everyday in Hollywood. That, and first round readers often don’t have the experience to identify a script with great potential.
Then, at the Austin Film Festival, as we drank and socialized with managers, writers, and producers, I found myself pitching other writer’s skills over my own. I don’t typically pitch myself in social settings, but it’s not because I don’t have the content or the chops. Let’s face it, word of mouth means a lot when it comes to screenplays and emerging writers who deserve to be acknowledged. Plus, some good karma points mean even more in the long run.

So here we are; for 2022, I will track the scripts that I feel are deserving to be at least finalists, and definitely contenders to win, as well as any that comes across my desk for another purpose. Depending on how many of these there are will inform the frequency of publishing the list (at least this first year).

Here are the bullet points:

  • This is not a competition, the writers don’t have to do anything, their script simply needs to catch the eye of a reader (or myself) who will then make note of the title, logline, and writer’s name if available. These details along with a summary of the reason the reader recommends it will be the only thing included in the list.
  • I will reach out to other readers to see if they want to participate, (my 500 scripts are only a drop in the bucket of all of the scripts entered or covered each year).
  • I will not publicize how the script came in (IE: I will not identify the competition or service, as that would be in bad form). However, if a producer, or agent, or manager, wants to know, I will inform them so that they can track down the script and writer.
  • I will not add scripts that come into me through my paid development services company (or any other reader’s services company). I repeat, this is not a pay to play service like some lists who also run competitions.
  • This is free, and time consuming, so if it becomes an ugly hassle it will cease.
  • Watch this space for more, and pass it on.