Rational Animations’ Script Writing Contest

Cross-posted to LW.

Edit: The deadline has been removed! So you can continue to send scripts.


I’m announcing a script writing contest for the Rational Animations YouTube channel. Write scripts of 2500 words maximum about a topic of longtermist relevance, and win:

  • 5000 USD.

  • We will make an animated video based on your script to be published on the YouTube channel with due credits. It will be animated by a team of 9 animators or an animation studio and will be of much higher quality than anything we’ve done so far.

  • A potential job offer as a scriptwriter for the channel.

Bonus: you may suggest already written work. If we bring your suggestion to the channel as it is (without having to adapt it), you will get $500, but nothing if I am already considering the work.

Soft deadline: October 15th.


The topic of your script should be of longtermist relevance. Examples: existential risks of any kind, the future of humanity, philosophy related to longtermism, technologies of longtermist relevance. I don’t mean to be too strict, I’ll accept scripts about a broad range of topics, and I might even make exceptions and offer a prize to scripts not relevant to longtermism if I find them a lot better than the competition. As a reference, the videos already on the channel that I would classify as longtermism-relevant are:

Length and number of scripts

The maximum length of the script should be 2500 words. Of course, you may split a longer script into two or more parts. You may send an unlimited number of scripts.

Are there any more restrictions?

Not really.

So far, we’ve only published explainers on the YT channel, but you don’t have to limit yourself to explainers. Do you want to write a Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant style short story? OK. Do you want to write an anime episode? OK. You can do whatever you want.

You may also adapt or send older work you’ve written that you think would make a good video for the YouTube channel if narrated as it is or with some tweaks. In that case you’ll win the $500 prize, unless you’ve made a significant adaptation effort.

Assorted things that make a good script, in order of importance:

  1. For any claim, you should include sources. The script should be as epistemically legible as possible for the audience.

  2. Focus on what really matters. If you write about complex topic X, there will be a few core points that are necessary and sufficient to build a solid understanding of topic X. Focus on those points. Yes, I understand this is a bit vague as a suggestion.

  3. Don’t simplify, but explain. Write for a really smart audience that is ignorant about the topic. Some background explanations can be skipped, and some others are required. Recognizing the difference is a bit of an art.

  4. Be concise, and avoid useless words and filler phrases.

  5. Telling stories and using concrete details helps with engagement and works better for teaching.

  6. How you start matters: if the beginning of the script is boring, that’s especially bad for engagement on YouTube.

  7. Challenge the preconceived assumptions a viewer might have about a topic, if the topic lends itself to it.

  8. See old topics from new surprising angles, but as with point 7, don’t force it.

How to send scripts

Send your scripts to rationalanimations@gmail.com (beware of the spelling, it’s “rationalanimations”, not “rationalanimation”).

In addition to sending the script to the YouTube channel’s e-mail, you may also publish it as a comment under this post or as a top-level post in the EA Forum or Less Wrong. If you do, link your post in the e-mail.


October 15th, but you may continue to send scripts after the deadline, and I’ll see if I can still offer prizes.

Prizes and winners

Prizes include:

  • 5000 USD. Number of winners: 0-4, perhaps more. You can’t win this prize more than once.

  • Animated YouTube video on Rational Animations based on your script, with due credits, unless you don’t want to be credited. Number of winners: 0-4, perhaps more. If you didn’t win the money prize, I’d only consider you for the video prize if I’ve already chosen at least four money prizes. We might bring the scripts to the channel as they are, or edit them beforehand.

  • Potentially, a job offer as a scriptwriter for Rational Animations. Number of winners: ???

Video quality

The animation, music, and sound design quality will be much higher than in our previous videos. We just hired a team of 9 animators. The videos currently uploaded on the channel were animated by a single person. We also have the budget to hire external animation studios.


You may suggest already written work. If we bring your suggestion to the channel as it is (without having to adapt it), you will get $500, but nothing if I am already considering the work.

Topics that we’ll bring to the channel soon enough and stuff I’m already considering

To not make you waste time, here are the topics of the next two videos:

I recommend not writing scripts about these same exact topics.

I’m considering adapting the top results of the Fiction category on the EA Forum and Less Wrong, so you won’t win the $500 prize by suggesting them.


Anything unclear or that I’ve missed? Ask away in the comments!