The NYC Midnight Madness screenwriting contest (nycmidnight.com) challenges contestants to write a five page script in 48 hours of an assigned genre using an assigned location. I really get a charge out of this format because I imagine that professional writing assignments would be in the same vein.
What helped me for the most recent challenge was using the techniques I studied with Chris Soth and Steve Kaplan. Perhaps my twenty years of studying the craft of writing helps somewhat, but once I applied Chris’s mini-movie method, and Steve’s hidden tools of comedy, the story itself was a breeze to write. The most difficult part was editing to keep it at five pages.
The rule is that you must kill your darlings, referring to deleting the passages you love the most. Until one is published or produced, one does not have a true sense of which passages are worthy and which must go. So I kept just the bare minimum to tell the story. Now it’s up to the judges.