Changes to the Fresh Voices Scorecard: What you need to know

By Fresh Voices Staff

We have made some changes to our scoring.  Why?

ScorecardRoger Ebert gave the Will Ferrell comedy Anchorman three stars out of four.  You know how many stars he bestowed upon the classic film Godfather, Part II in his original 1974 review?  Three stars out of four.  Well there you have it, Roger Ebert thought a Will Ferrell comedy and an epic crime saga were exactly the same in terms of quality.

Except he didn’t.  We know he didn’t.  He’s said so.  Numeric ratings have their place and their use, but at some point a general thumbs up or thumbs down is more practical.  That’s not to say that there’s no merit in numbers, but at some point you have to wonder if you’re not just overcomplicating subjective opinions with objective-sounding numbers.

This is why we have made some changes to our scoring.

We previously used pure number-based scoring, giving each element of a screenplay a number between 1 (lowest) and 10 (highest) based on its quality.  But this has led to some strange conversations.  I remember discussing with another reader what exactly makes a “6” structure and what exactly makes a “7” structure?  What would a writer have to change to get their conflict rating up from 4 to 5?  Oh so you gave this script an 8 in castability and you gave this other one a 7.  Please, explain that difference.  No go on, I’ll wait.

If you’ve read some of our previous articles here you’ll know our mantra is that reviewing screenplays is subjective work, so why are we quantifying it?  Well, we’re not anymore. Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you: CLEAR AND EASILY UNDERSTANDABLE SCORING!

You know what’s easier to describe than the difference between a 6 and a 7? The different between “Excellent” and “Good” or “Fair” and “Poor.”  These aren’t arbitrary numbers, these are WORDS with PRE-EXISTING DEFINITIONS.  Oh boy that’s refreshing. You might not know what a “7” means.  But you probably know what “good” means.

But don’t think we’re going soft and reviewing your screenplay with a single word.  We’re still rating your script on 15 separate elements.  We’re just giving each element a rating that can be more easily defined.

We’re trying to place less emphasis on our numbers and more emphasis on our words.  A general Excellent/Good/Fair/Poor – combined with our strong evaluations – should be a better indicator of your script’s merits than a math equation.  And this is coming from someone who got an A in Calculus – a fact of my life I bring up way too often in conversations just to gloat.  And before you ask: Yes, I’m very fun at parties.

But every break-up is difficult, so we’re still doing a little number-crunching behind the scenes (and adding an overall numeric score to the top of your evaluation so you can to some extent track your progress), but by giving the judges an easier grading scale to understand, it’ll make everything more uniform.  Instead of having to explain to judges exactly what a “4” is, we just tell them to give an element the ol’ Excellent/Good/Fair/Poor, and we’ll know what to do with that choice once it’s time to figure out who moves to the next round.

Also, we should let you all know that we’ve weighted the “voice” element slightly higher than the other elements this year.  Not enough to make an otherwise terrible script advance to the second round on voice alone, but enough to give a slight edge to those scripts with a great, original voice.  I mean, we’re called Fresh Voices afterall, I feel like this just makes sense.  If we were called Fresh Formatting then I guess we’d give your script’s format the extra weight.  But we’re not.  That URL was already taken.

We’ve been working on this new system for a while, making sure everything works on the page and on our end (with a fun mock-competition!), but now that our doors are open, we get to apply it to real incoming scripts, and that’s exciting!  But change is difficult, so we understand if people have questions or concerns over the new grading scale.  We’ll do whatever we can to address them.  But trust me, I’m a numbers guy myself and even *I* like this new system.  And I’m the kind of guy that gets a solid A in Calculus!