Scriptapalooza, It’s Not About The Apology. It’s about the Optics.

The damage the competition announcement did is already done.

“The AI screenplay competition stands apart by showcasing the innovative potential of artificial intelligence, merging human creativity with machine intelligence.” This was a call to action from Scriptapalooza’s now deleted Artifical Intelligence Screenwriting Competition. In the amount of time it took to say that line aloud, the competition swiftly deleted it and wrote a formal apology to writers, declaring that they support the WGA and it’s ongoing strike.

Of course they support writers. This is a screenwriting competition. In fact, it’s one of the largest screenwriting competitions out there. For over 25 years they built equity among aspiring writers, with many entering annually and a select few winning. If you win, you’re good. A win in Scriptapalooza is one that carries weight, which is why the AI competition blindsided so many writers. In a time where artificial intelligence is growing and companies looking to cut costs, a competition comes along that accepts this as a growing trend, and even advertises it as such. The much beloved competition released it, and got so much backlash, that they just as quickly deleted it, leaving this quote in the emails of screenwriters who are affiliated with the competition:

We understand you apologize, but the damage is done.

As a businessman myself, I understand that development takes time, which is what I’m hoping is the case here. With such a hot-button issue, one would think that this was on the table for some time and was scheduled for release. Unfortunately, this came at the worst possible time: two months into a WGA strike about the exact same issue. Someone involved could’ve said that this needs to be delayed or scrapped. It’s not uncommon for the film world anyway, as many films had to make last-minute changes to real life occurrences. This comes off to many as either completely insensitive to the times we live in, or it’s a flat-out overlook. Neither is a good look.

Here’s why this competition is so inappropriate: Though its been deleted, the optics of AI and people working together on a script is already out there. “Embrace the future of storytelling in the AI Screenplay Competition. Witness how AI revolutionizes the industry as it explores innovative narratives and pushes creative boundaries.” I’m not a troglodyte, the future is inevitable, but how quickly can studios go from writers to writers and AI to just AI? It transitions easier than people think. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you interacted with a cashier? Do you order food over an app? This is what the WGA is trying to get in front of.

Scriptapalooza, you made a mistake. Your company is run by humans. You’re allowed to make mistakes, and you admitted yours. Thank you for recognizing it. The fact that this happened at the worst possible time does leave a bad taste in many writers’ mouths. We all work hard to create. We go to school for it. We can’t tell you how many tears we shed because we’re working to make it. Many of us won’t. AI is not the answer to that. It could eventually replace a writer’s room. It could replace graduates submitting to studios. It could replace writers entering Scriptapalooza.

“Scriptapalooza will promote, pitch, and push the Semifinalists and higher for a full year. No other competition in the world does that.” This is from your website’s mission statement.

Remember this when you’re thinking about your next competition.

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