Screenwriting Battle 2021

silhouette of ninja with words Marie Cooper Screenwriting battle
Reading Time: 4 minutes

I am still new to Screenwriting and I am very much learning the craft as I go. This Screenwriting Battle was an invaluable experience that did not give me time to over-research and overthink (which I am prone to do). just like Scriptly Writing, I had to just take the brief, or in this case, card prompts and write with it.

A theatre director, Jen told me about the Screenwriting Battle. I had never come across it before but I took my usual approach to these kinds of opportunities. That you have to be in it to win it and the prize money was tempting enough for me to enter.

For most competitions, the entry fees are offputting, despite the potential prestige of winning a prize and the pile of prize money that means it might be possible to both eat AND pay bills that month. Usually, when you enter a writing contest, it feels like you are ****ing your money into the sea if you don’t win. Not only that, nobody tells you that you haven’t won. You have to wait for the winners to be praised and you see their smug happy faces painted all over the unfurled sails of the long list before you realise that you have been shoved unceremoniously off of the fail plank back into the murky depths of the poverty-ridden ocean of obscurity once more. Not sure where the piratey metaphors came from.

The Luck of the Screenwriting Battle Draw

The Screenwriting Battle makes the contest entering process fun and engaging and not all just about winning and losing. Everyone gets something out of it.

As the battle progresses you know exactly where you are. Emails and your page of the Screenwriting Battle website keep you updated. You draw your three cards to receive a prompt at the beginning of the battle. You draw a Genre card, a Location card and an Item card. You can redraw, but once you do you can not go back to the previous card if you feel your choice is not as appealing as the one you discarded.

Your Hand is Cast

There are nice little deadlines along the way to prevent too much in the way of procrastination. Once your hand is set you have until the next deadline to write your screenplay which can be no longer than ten pages long. Then once the writing deadline has passed you become an arbiter of other screenwriters for the Genres that you did not choose. You read pairs of screenplays from each genre and decide which you liked best. You leave comments to say what you liked and what you thought might need improving.

Screenplay Feedback

The great thing about this screenwriting battle is that not only can you see where you are in the contest every step of the way, but you receive praise and constructive feedback from other participants wherever you finish in the overall war. So, no matter what, even if you don’t land the luscious loot you had your eyes on (last pirate reference, I swear), you still come away with something of benefit to your writing.

Marie Cooper’s Screenwriting Battle Experience

Science Fiction Screenplay

I stuck with my initial card dealt for the genre, which was Science Fiction. Not because I thought I would be any good at writing in that genre, but because it is one of my favourite genres to both read and watch. My location card was Pharmacy and my item card was a Mallet. That had me stumped (intentional woody pun), but I had already re-dealt once. Also, I had just handmade a mallet from a single piece of tree on a nature reserve getaway. So, I have to confess, that it felt a serendipitous deal, so I went with it.

It was difficult. The writing time fell over a weekend when I have my granddaughter and even though there was an extension to the original deadline due to an error on the website, I could not take advantage of it because I had work that day. I did the best that I could do in the time that I had. It felt rough and rushed and my writing did not feel as good as it could be. Not my worst. Not my best.

Feedback on Screenwriting Battle screenplay – Acorns

Constructive Criticism

I am keeping the constructive feedback to myself, to re-read and to make use of going forwards. I have already used some of the feedback to improve the horror screenplay I am currently working on.

The Good Stuff

The positive comments I am sharing, in no particular order. I feel that I am gradually improving and I am enjoying celebrating every little win, even if I haven’t managed to land a prize… yet… Yay! Go optimism!


You’ve built yourself quite a world in 10 pages, it was enjoyable.


I love the world you created. So mysterious but ouch, depressing and hitting close to the bone of today’s world. It’s a creepy cautionary tale but definitely a little spy/thriller in there too. An exciting world that holds a lot of intrigue. And hope!

I’m totally captivated by this world and want to see more of it.

Another thing that your script has going for it, is that it not for hardcore sci-fi types only but could be done with enough science to catch that audience and also people who have no science background. It’s a universal worry but still has the good guy/bad guy appeal.

Original idea too.


Great script! You did a good job keeping the audience wondering, driving them forward. I wanted to keep reading, so that I could better understand the world you had created.

I also think the title is very creative! It summarizes the story perfectly.

It is a wonderful concept for a story, with lots of complicated layers. The whole time I was wondering what “Barbiture watches” meant – and I think that’s a good thing! It keeps your readers engaged, even after the story concludes.

Overall – you did a great job!


This is a very interesting concept. I would love to see it as a larger piece. Very relevant given our current ecological situation and I can really see something like this being a reality. You’ve envisioned a very detailed world with a history and scope that stretches far beyond the confines of a 10 page script. Nice twist at the end.


Interesting concept, well described environments. Seems to be a thought out world, feels like it has breadth.


I really see the world you are building it almost feels more inmense then the characters.


14 Screenplays 2021

Notebook that reads Marie Cooper Writes 14 Screenplays
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Marie Cooper wrote fourteen screenplays from the 11th to 24th October 2021 during the Scriptly Writing challenge.

What is Scriptly Writing?

Scriptly Writing is an annual screenwriting challenge, run by the Literal Challenge. The aim is to write fourteen complete short screenplays in just two weeks.

The Stats

How many words did I write during Scriptly Writing?

This year I wrote 14878 words over the course of the two weeks of the challenge. The fourteen screenplays consisted of 69 pages and 106 scenes, containing a total of 97 characters. Well, there were many more background characters and wildlife, but I left those out of my count.

Looking at the ratio of male to female characters, it might initially seem as if my screenplays were male-dominated with 60 male and 29 female characters. But, there were groups of male characters in some of my plays that skewed my stats. Despite the stats, many of my main characters were actually female. If I were to count the time characters were on the page and their lines, then the figures would most definitely be reversed. But I am not going into that much detail. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I wrote 1107 fewer words compared to Scriptly Writing 2020, but I wrote in more characters this time. Or had become more aware of including those in the background to my scenes.

2021 A Challenging Challenge

I did spend far less time on my work this year though and therefore did less research for each brief and felt I wrote in much less detail.

It has been incredibly difficult to write my screenplays for this year’s challenge. Last year I had the luxury of lockdown, which provided time to think and create. This year the challenge has coincided with the removal of the Universal Credit uplift, pushing me into dire straits financially and with the impending doom of the Minimum income floor on the horizon. Sadly, the UK (well, the Torys) does not value its artists, arts and culture, or heritage or, well anything that does not fill someone’s already bulging coffers. Prices rise and Brexit empties our shelves in the UK, my face is still messed up and waiting to be fixed, forcing me off the stage and any unmasked acting work. I am working face to face again when Covid cases are currently higher in the UK than they have been since March, which is a worry.

I can’t deny, it has been incredibly difficult to work under these conditions. Trying to write around work and under pressure has been stressful. It only took receiving a Council Tax demand to send me to the edge this month. As a result, I really don’t feel that the standard of my writing has been as good as last year and this has left me feeling despondent. That the stress and pain have not been worth what I accomplished. But maybe that is what I thought at the end of the challenge last year. I will reassess now that the challenge is complete and once I have given myself a week or two of space to recover.

14 Short Screenplays by Marie Cooper

Obsessive Coffee Disorder – Day 1. Oct 11th 2021

Whatever is cooking in his oven, it doesn’t smell good.

The Elephant on the Grass – Day 2. Oct 12th 2021

An explosion of angst-ridden frustrations of planetary destruction explode out of a woman’s vagina, and then things get a bit weird.

As the Crow Flies – Day 3. Oct 13th 2021

Crow has no choice but to be crow, until his captor sets him free.

Spiders – Day 4. Oct 14th 2021

Don’t eat spiders.

You Shall Not Pass – Day 5. Oct 15th 2021

Protestors are holding up traffic at Dartford again and the locals are not happy.

Swan Island – Day 6. Oct 16th 2021

In 1810, two men discover each other in their small riverside, town.

Somnus Persona – Day 7. Oct 17th 2021

The masks we choose to wear.

Windows – Day 8. Oct 18th 2021

Watching from her window, a woman creates worlds.

Finding Nina – Day 9. Oct 19th 2021

Nina has been missing for three days. The community gather together to search for her, hoping to find her safe and well.

Tusks – Day 10. Oct 20th 2021

Taking a musical track as inspiration, a story of a woman’s first day on the job.

In Perpetuity – Day 11. Oct 21st 2021

Immortality is lonely.

Skinwalkers – Day 12. Oct 22nd 2021

A strange occurrence at a local school attracts international press coverage.

Emma’s View – Day 13. Oct 23rd 2021

Scriptly Writing brief Day 3 from 2020, from the perspective of Jess’s sister Emma.

Little Doors – Day 14. Oct 24th 2021

Let little doors lie.

Other Writing Projects

Walking Plays 2021

Norwich Cathedral in a puddle, taken by Norfolk playwright Marie Cooper
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Walking Plays anthology available now

Check out the May/June 2021 Radical Hospitality edition of The Dramatist – Page 40 41 for a two-page feature written by Jo Brisbane about the Walking Plays. I am joyous to see our beautiful, small medieval city of Norwich get mentioned in a New York magazine.

During lockdown in three countries, twelve states, playwrights walked. Inspired by their wanderings, they wove stories and came together to share. Tales of social justice. Of magic and the tragic. The comical and the historical. Horror and fantasy. Where their minds wandered, their characters followed. Across time, across generations. Diverse and dispersed, they brought their plays together and walked the world. Well, some of it.

The International collection of Walking Plays, written by a talented bunch of twenty-eight playwrights from the US, Canada and the UK, curated by Claudia Inglis Haas. All of the plays were written for outside – so they can be performed over Zoom, as a podcast or radio play. If your theatre, podcast or radio station would like to perform our anthology our plays, visit the Walking Plays Facebook page for the performance rights.


Marie Cooper’s Walking Play, ‘Unlocked’

‘Unlocked’, inspired by my lockdown walks, by the riverside and Norwich Cathedral Quarter is part of the collection, and is also now up on the New Play Exchange.


Synopsis for Unlocked

Hannah discovered something about her partner, Ryan that unnerved her. She panicked and ran. Both Ryan and her friend Lauren are out looking for Hannah along the riverside.


Recommendation for Unlocked on the New Play Exchange

“…you start to feel breathless from the movement. It’s a fast-paced, action-packed audio play that tears your emotions a zillion ways before letting them go.” Lee R. Lawing

Recommendation for Norfolk playwright Marie Cooper's short Walking Play, 'Unlocked', originally posted to the New Play Exchange

My Walking Play Route – Norwich Riverside

Although I live in the city, I am fortunate that there are many green spaces dotted around the urban centre. The river walk nearest to our Cathedral is the section of the riverside I tend to favour – from the train station to Whitefriars – because it is mostly set aside from housing and industrial units.

You can walk right up to the water’s edge for most of the way. Unlike further upriver, where walkers are sandwiched between housing and the steep fenced-off, bricked-edges, or further downstream where the riverside is somewhat marred by blocks of apartment buildings, restaurants and concrete.

On the section in between, running from the entrance through the patio of the Angler Pub, you can feel the spongy grass beneath your feet. Allow the weeping willow leaves to run between your fingertips. If you are there at just the right time of year, you might find some areas of grass turned white by poplar tree fluff.

Historic Norwich Cathedral Quarter

Although the brief of my play was to write in the modern time, the area I walked is steeped in history. I tend to walk the greener sections of old Norwich, from the Cathedral Quarter and Pulls Ferry to Whitefriars bridge. So, it was at this point that my short play also begins.

Norwich Riverside Map for Marie Cooper's Walking Play.
The Riverside walk in Norwich where Marie Cooper’s Walking Play ‘Unlocked’ takes place. Google Maps, 2021, maps.google.com


As the Play begins

Lauren leaves the Cathedral coffee shop and spots Hannah walking by the old red post box. Lauren is dressed for the office, not snow, so it takes some time for her to almost catch up with Hannah. She reaches the picturesque Pulls Ferry before being close enough to shout…

Pulls Ferry sits at the end of Ferry Lane where a canal used to run from the river up to the Cathedral, It was used to ferry the Caen limestone up to the site where the cathedral construction began in 1096. The two main characters, of my play, Lauran and Hannah, come together near this point and walk along that stretch of river.

Further along, the Red Lion pub nestles at the side of Bishop’s Bridge. This was where Robert Kett fought for the rights of the poor in 1549, when his army of rebels attacked Norwich, crossing the river Wensum and forcing through the city defences.

Beyond the pub is another stretch of trees and grass with the path meandering through it. A side path leads closer to the river’s edge. There are benches dotted along the walk to rest or just stop, to breathe in the wonders of nature. To watch the swans glide by or the gulls dipping under the surface for fish. There is a small area on the turn of the river where local children tend to come to play during the summer. It is known locally as ‘the beach’.

Skywatch Seat

On the left of the path before the beach is the Skywatch seat, carved from redwood, a memorial to a local musician. The Japanese Cherry Blossom tree that partners the polished seat, stands adorned with colourful trinkets.

Cow Tower

Overlooking the beach stands the flint-built Cow Tower. Once part of the city walls and defences for the city of Norwich, now it stands alone and gated. It didn’t use to be so exclusive. I remember going inside as a youngster. My friends and I loved going inside. I don’t recall why to be honest, as there wasn’t much more to find inside, other than the pigeons and pigeon poop. Yet I feel sad now to find myself lockout out of somewhere there was part of my wanderings growing up.

Behind the Tower, away from the river is a pond. When the river rises, the area becomes flooded and the wooden-planked river walkway becomes a bridge. The pond freezes over in the winter. When I was writing my walking play, the pond was solid and there was snow crunching underneath my footsteps and so that was the environment into which I placed my characters into their story.

Crossing a short wooden bridge, there is a small inlet from the river that leads to what remains of the 18th-century swan pit. The tidal water would lead into the grounds of the Great Hospital where the swans would be fattened up and then consumed by the local gentry,

A little further along, across a car park, sits the Adam & Eve pub, the oldest pub in Norwich, dating back to 1249. It was used by the construction workmen whilst the Cathedral was being built and according to the website of the pub, still has a Saxon well underneath the lower bar floor.

Spanning the river, leading away from the Adam and Eve toward Mousehold heath is the curving, modern Jarrold’s bridge. This was the point at which my story ended for my characters, as they go their separate ways.


Other Writing Projects

Monologues

Monologues by Norwich Playwright Marie Cooper
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Monologues written by Marie Cooper. The first is ‘Six’. A dramatic monologue for a female character on the subject of bereavement, grief, guilt, motherhood, and police shooting.

Six

Six is a monologue created by Marie Cooper, written during the inital 2020 pandemic lockdown. It is written for a female performer and reads at about four to four and a half minutes. The monologue can be read over on the New Play Exchange.

Synopsis

A grieving mother agonizes over how she is ever going to tell her little girl that her daddy will never be coming home.

Please do credit me if you use my monologue.


Recommended by Rachel Feeny-Williams on New Play Exchange

 A beautifully sad piece where anyone would struggle not to shed a tear. Death can be a cliched subject to explore but I believe the phrasing here brings something new and gives the character a unique voice. It would be a powerful piece for an audition.  – Rachel Feeny-Williams


Conception

I originally conceived the initial idea for ‘Six’ during an online playwriting workshop run by Rosa Torr on 8th July 2020 with South East Creatives.

The workshop was a fantastic twelve step process over the course of two hours that guided writers through exercises to stimulate ideas. From freewriting, prompts, questions and lists, progressing on to developing those ideas into monologues and dialogue and dropping random ideas into existing work.

It was a brilliant workshop and by the end I had pages of potential ideas, snippets of monologues and dialogue. One of the exercises had encouraged us to envision and create a location that could be set up and recorded from home in the new post-pandemic world of lockdowns and Zoom. This was particulary exciting for me as I was considering writing a monologue but had been stuck for ideas. During the exercise I created an entire list of setups. One of which was “Home in bed”.

At the time I had established a regular, daily writing routine thanks to London Writers’ Hour which I woke for, every morning, at 7am. I worked towards finishing my first play and exploring creating new work. During Writers’ Hour I took the dialogue I’d scribbled and rewrote it as a monolgoue. I then put the monologue aside as I worked on completing my full play.

I dipped back into the monologue every now and again to edit, add bits, remove bits. It was good to not look at it for a while and ocassionally revisit and read with fresh eyes.

I do keep meaning to learn it and record it, but still haven’t got round to it. But one of our lovely local actors, Helen Fullerton, very kindly read and made a recording of it so that I could hear my monologue with a voice other than my own or that inside my head.

Hearing Helen bring it alive and give good feedback on it, I felt more confident that the monologue worked well, so I posted it up on the New Play Exchange. I was surprised and happy to receive a recommendation from another NPX member (see recommendation above).


Other Writing Projects

28 Plays 2021

Notebook that reads Marie Cooper Writes 28 Plays
Reading Time: 4 minutes

28 plays were written by Norfolk playwright Marie Cooper in February 2021. The plays were created whilst taking part in the 28 Plays Later playwriting challenge, along with other writers from all over the world.

What is 28 Plays Later?

28 Plays Later is an annual playwriting challenge, run by the Literal Challenge. The aim is to write 28 plays in 28 days.

That sounds crazy! Why write 28 Plays in 28 Days?

The challenge stretches you as a writer. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and gets you writing about things you might not have otherwise done. You don’t have time to plan or procrastinate as there is a new brief and new deadline daily.

I decided to take part in 28 Plays Later after the success of the Scriptly Writing screenwriting challenge in the previous year. It was a fantastic productive month for me.

I wrote my reflections on writing 28 plays in 28 days over on my blog. Below is the full list of plays, the day on which I wrote each one, along with a short synopsis.

Where can these plays been read?

The short play from Day 15, I integrated into another longer piece. I carried across the name ‘Unlocked’ to the longer play. It is due to be aired on AirPlay radio in 2022, as part of The Walking Plays collection. 

I have plans to continue working on a few of these pieces. I am currently editing and adapting the play I wrote on Day 9 into an audio play.

The plays I wrote on Day 7, The Elbow Grease Strategy and Day 12, The Jade Palace, have had development readings at Maddermarket Theatre. I have some further edits to do as a result of the feedback.

28 Short Plays by Marie Cooper

Sideways to Siberia – Day 1. Feb. 1st.

A message doesn’t make it in time to who, where and when it is supposed to be.

Dawn in Misty Cove – Day 2. Feb. 2nd.

A woman returns every day, to visit the same place that her daughter died.

Dover Sole – Day 3. Feb. 3rd.

A tea stop on the Dover coast.

The Facility – Day 4. Feb. 4th.

It’s simple enough to get into the facility. But is it possible to get out?

The Catalyst – Day 5. Feb. 5th.

A wealthy man chats to a salesperson about his funeral options brochure.

Old Shuck – Day 6. Feb. 6th.

Even the old black dog comes when he is called.

The Elbow Grease Strategy – Day 7. Feb. 7th.

Jessica just can’t seem to get a (Brechtian) break in life. This short play is up, on the New Play Exchange.

Two Lattes to go – Day 8. Feb. 8th.

Two people who care about each other, but who can’t tell each other.

No Man. No Queen. No England – Day 9. Feb. 9th.

Hatshepsut and Grace O’Malley bump into each other, on a hilltop in the midst of a tank battle. Yeah! This short play has been further researched, edited, revised, and renamed since the challenge.

Nusturi – Day 10. Feb. 10th.

Purposely not making any sense.

Blood on the Leaves – Day 11. Feb. 11th.

The day the hanging tree falls.

12th Floor Room 2 (Now renamed the Jade Palace)- Day 12. Feb. 12th.

A woman has outstayed her welcome in the hotel lobby.
The very first draft of this play was brought to life during its first reading at the 28 Plays Later reading over Zoom. My play begins at approximately 1 hr 47m 33s and runs for 10 mins, to 1 hr 57m 54s



This short play was edited and renamed, “The Jade Palace”. The Jade Palace is now up and available on the New Play Exchange.

The Leopard Sleeps – Day 13. Feb. 13th.

Petty Gods and the mortals unlucky enough to get in the way

Poppy Packer – Day 14. Feb. 14th.

A strange poetic monologue

Unlocked – Day 15. Feb. 15th

A woman finds her partner’s phone unlocked and doesn’t like what she finds.

This short was integrated into a larger piece that became one of the audio plays I was working on at the time. I liked the title of this too, so I also used this as the title of the audio play. the full audio play script for ‘Unlocked’ can be found over on the New Play Exchange and is part of the Walking Plays anthology. It is due to be performed on AirPlay radio in May 2022.

Unlocked – The Walking Play

Best Day Ever – Day 16. Feb. 16th.

A woman notices a ‘Sold’ sign has gone up in her neighbour’s garden.

All characters and events in this play, even those based on real people– are entirely fiction. Even the anti-social neighbours who kept me awake for four years who do not make an appearance. Imagined resemblances to anyone alive, dead or (at 2 am and sleep-deprived) wished to be dead, is entirely coincidental. Celebrations, alcohol, whooping and a happy dance did most definitely happen though.

Mosaic – Day 17. Feb. 17th.

A man searching for answers finds riddles

Do-Over – Day 18. Feb. 18th.

A woman talks to herself

The Sloth Appropriation – Day 19. Feb. 19th.

A trip to the zoo.

Stallion – Day 20. Feb. 20th.

A man becomes a horse.

Unidentified – Day 21. Feb. 21st.

Kings and Consequences – Day 22. Feb. 22nd.

Financial Services – Day 23. Feb. 23rd.

Stealth – Day 24. Feb. 24th.

The Cremation Perturbation – Day 25. Feb 25th.

A little girl has disturbing aspirations

Cocaine Cockup – Day 26. Feb. 26th.

The party doesn’t go quite as expected

Black Rye – Day 27. Feb 27th.

In the church ruins, a stranger comes to the fire.

Cockwomble Caffeination – Day 28. Feb. 28th.


Other Writing Projects