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CSCS Open 2009 (Creative Screenwriting Cyberspace Open:

It was an insane six weeks for us at Coverage Ink as we plowed through many, many scenes and reviewed and graded every single one. But in the end, there could be only one. Who walked out with the 3 grand top prize? Read on...

This is our eighth straight year coordinating the CS Open live writing tournament. In that time, we’ve given out over $83 billion in prize money -- oh, sorry, that’s Goldman Sachs -- and one of our winners, Bob DeRosa, has gone on to quite a career. His movie “The Air I Breathe” starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Forest Whitaker came out in 2007, and his movie “Killers” starring Ashton Kutcher opens Summer 2010. So awesome things can happen to CS Open participants -- not just frustration, indigestion and carpal tunnel syndrome!

Now as many of you know, we changed it up a bit for 2009. In the past, the CS Open was done live in person, with hundreds of folks writing scenes by hand, in pencil, based on the scene parameters we gave them on the spot. Now that was fun and exciting, but there were problems. First off, folks often had scheduling conflicts with other Expo events.  Second of all, it kind of sucks writing by hand, and we couldn’t really figure out a way for everyone to do it electronically… until now. 

So this year, for the first time, the CS Open became the CSCS Open – the Creative Screenwriting Cyberspace live writing tournament. Big props to Creative Screenwriting publisher Bill Donovan who brought the CS Open back from its near demise earlier this year by spearheading the migration of the tourney to the internet. For the first time ever, folks around the world could participate in the CS Open all at the same time.  The response was overwhelming, with entries far exceeding our projections. Of course we had some glitches, too, with mysteriously disappearing scene feedback and so forth. But by and large the process went smoothly, and once we get in there and spackle up a few holes in the system, the CS Open will be back. 

Any of us can write a good scene if we have two weeks. But can you do it when the pressure’s on and the clock is ticking? We’re not giving out official numbers, but my Coverage Ink team of industry readers read and evaluated a freaking tsunami of scenes over the last six weeks. These scenes were created by you guys based on our scene parameters, and everyone had 48 hours to get them in. The top 135 or so then advanced to the semifinals, in which they had to write another new scene based on a new, fiendishly hard scene prompt. Then finally yesterday, the top 15 came back to write one more scene for us, from which the CI team narrowed it down to the three scenes that were staged at the Expo closing ceremony. Here is the scene prompt which the top 15 had to write their best interpretation of:


Your PROTAGONIST is caught between a rock and a hard place. It's crisis time, and he (or she) needs to make a life or death decision that, one way or another, is going to piss people off. The stakes are high, and doing nothing is not an option. The ANTAGONIST is using this all to make the hero look bad. On top of everything, your protagonist's hands are not entirely clean in this situation. Write the scene in which your protagonist is confronted by his LOVE INTEREST about his involvement in the crisis as he agonizes over what to do.

How you approach the scene--dramatic or comedic--is up to you.


CSCS Open 2009 Top 3

Meet the Top 3 winners of Creative Screenwriting's Cyberspace Open 2009 competition. learn more

David Zorn David Zorn
CSCS Open 2009 Winner
Benjamin Wheelock Benjamin Wheelock
2nd place winner
Mark Poole Mark Poole
3rd place winner


The audience laughed along as the scenes were performed. Mark Poole’s “Killer Writer/Writer Killer” portrayed a man dating a girl whose twin sister is murdering screenwriters; Benjamin Wheelock’s “Part of the Job” depicted a bank robbery that goes wrong when the inside man, the bank manager, gets discovered by one of the tellers he’s banging; but it was David Zorn’s “Bad Doctor,” a riotous comedy sketch about a pioneering surgeon who accidentally sews up his cell phone inside of a mob boss’ wife, who took home the top prize. Zorn was the only one of the top three in attendance, so it was fitting that he was on stage to accept his prize. Too bad I mixed up the scenes and announced he’d gotten third place by accident! Dur. Great work, David! Lame work, Jim.

I also want to mention the other 12 finalists who cranked out scene after scene for us, giving up quality time they could have spent slacking or obsessing guiltily over not writing. They are: Pamela Rodeheaver, Doug Peake, David Ivy, Tom Weber, Sean Leonard, Matthew Fleck, Kevin Johnson, Karen Veazey, Scott Noack, Gillian White, Cathy Kitinoja, and Dan Parkhurst.

Sean Leonard receives an honorable mention for the terrific writing in his scene. 

Actors perform the winning scene at the 2009 Screenwriting Expo

Last, a shout out to our phenomenal team of readers who did an incredible job evaluating the almost frightening volume of scenes. These guys are about the best around. I use them to develop my own material, and their insights are just top-notch -- so Ruchika, Joe, Dylan, Andy K., Greg, and Aaron, big thanks to all you guys. You rock! 

See everyone at the Screenwriting Expo 2010!

--Jim Cirile



2008 Screenwriting Expo:

CS Open Tournament

60 writers under the gun. Precious seconds ticking away. Would they concoct a knockout scene before the clock ran out? Before they knew it, time was up… and the next group of hapless writers filed in to test their mettle.

The CS Open live writing tournament was, as always, a Screenwriting Expo highlight. For the seventh year straight, Coverage, Ink’s Jim Cirile and his cutthroat team of industry readers coordinated. “Most of us can compose a good scene in a week or three,” says Cirile. “But can you do it under the gun? In pencil?”

Coverage, Ink congratulates the 2008 CS Open top thirteen: Vivian Lee Moore, Elizabeth Bigelow, Bob Garland, Michael Azzopardi, CJ Conklin, David Gatlin, Eric Rodriguez, Magaly Colimon, Stephen Smith, Scott Noack and Robert Dixon (third place), Matthew Scott (second place), and Jan Pfeiffer (winner.)

Writers were given scene parameters and 90 minutes to write it. A sample prompt: Your PROTAGONIST has just discovered that his or her LOVE INTEREST has double-crossed him (or her.) All signs indicate that the love interest has been leading on the protagonist from the start merely to accomplish a goal. Feeling betrayed and angry, your protagonist confronts the love interest. ”You have to write your own interpretation of the parameters while still nailing it,” says Cirile. “Originality counts for 25% of your total score. Our top thirteen this year got very creative.”

Those who scored in the top 10% progressed to round two… to write yet another brand-new scene. Participants also were able to pick up their graded scenes. “Even though it’s just a short scene, we try to give everybody constructive feedback,” says Cirile. “You can definitely improve your craft quickly in the Open.” The top 13 from round two then advanced to the finals Sunday morning.

“The whole team read each of the finalists’ scenes, and we averaged the scores,” says Cirile. “It was pretty clear-cut. There were only three scenes in the 90s.” And then the fun part—the top three scenes were performed live at the Expo’s closing ceremonies by Pasha McKenley’s team of actors. When the audience finished laughing (all the scenes were comedies,) they voted, and Jan Pfeiffer’s scene “Sucker Punch” nabbed the $3,000 grand prize. “What Knot to Do” by Matthew Scott took second place, and Robert Dixon’s “Houston, We Have a Problem” grabbed third. And for those who strived but were eliminated, Cirile offers this advice: “Self-editing is crucial. We had too many scenes of 12 pages or more. Practice up and come back next year ready to kick ass.”

“It was a great experience,” concludes winner Jan Pfeiffer. “There's nothing like a deadline to kick your butt in gear. I think I wrote more in the three rounds than I have in the past three months. It's hard to keep writing when you wonder if your work will ever find the light of day, and it was an amazing boost to see and hear my ideas performed in front of a live audience.”




















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