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Reader Profile: Get Your Scripts Ready for Big Break 2017

by Final Draft 

The Big Break Screenwriting Contest opening date is right around the corner (February 22, 2017)! To help you get your scripts ready to submit we've asked our readers to go through their reading careers and give us their best advice on preparing for Big Break. 

FINAL DRAFT: How did you start out reading?

READER: A friend of mine worked in development at a major production company. One day she asked me for my opinion on a few scripts. I wrote up some notes and gave them to her. Not long after her boss asked if I was interested in reading for them. I was and it went from there.

FD: Can you give us an overview of your reading experience?

READER: I began by reading for a major production company and then began branching out to other companies and producers. Later I began reading for a few screenplay contests. And eventually I began to work as a consultant for a few production companies, providing notes and suggestions for improving scripts in development. I also started working for a few established screenwriters, giving their scripts a look and giving them notes before they would turn them in to the producer or studio that commissioned them. Later I helped start Script Magazine's ScriptXpert script assessment service and read scripts for them as well.

FD: Have you had success as a writer yourself?

READER: Yes, I have written and/or co-written a number of produced teleplays, as well as several commissioned but yet unproduced screenplays. I have also published seven books.

FD: How many years have you read for Big Break?

READER: As long as it has been in existence.

FD: Can you share some of your favorite memories?

READER: It's all been a blast, but my favorite memory was meeting the writer of a script that I had championed. It was a script I read and -- while it wasn't perfect -- I really thought it had something. It did not make the initial final 10, but I pushed for it to be included. It was then not named one of the Top 3, but one of the managers who was judging the contest responded to it the same way I did and between the judging and that year's award ceremony he signed the writer and almost immediately landed her an assignment. I met her the night of the awards. She was so happy and very grateful and thanked me profusely. I, in turn, thanked her because it was wonderful to come across such a wonderful piece of screenwriting. It was great to play a role in the beginning of what I hope will turn out to be a great screenwriting career,

FD: What are your favorite genres to read and/or watch? Are they the same?

READER: I don't really have a favorite genre of movie to watch or script to read. I like good movies and scripts in all genres.

FD: What are your favorite movies/TV shows?

READER: There are so many: King Kong, Close Encounters, Jaws, Tootsie, The Apartment, It Happened One Night, The Grapes of Wrath, Star Wars, Breaking Away, A Hard Day's Night, Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II, The Graduate, Apocalypse Now, Amadeus, and on and on and on.

FD: What is the worst cliché you see in the scripts you read?

READER: In recent years, it's been a structural cliche -- starting with a scene from the middle of the story, then flashing back to: 2 days earlier/1 month earlier/5 years earlier/etc. Without exaggeration, 80% of the scripts I read these days have that structure and at this point it is so boring...

FD: What do you look for in the first 10 pages of a script?

READER: Something interesting -- an intriguing character, scene, or situation -- and something entertaining -- an exciting action sequence, a tense suspense sequence, a really funny joke, or a horror scene that scares me to death.

FD: What common pitfalls should entrants avoid?

READER: Never submit a script that runs over 120 pages. Also, no solid blocks of type on the first page or long speeches (especially on page 1). Also, formatting that bears no resemblance to accepted screenplay format.

FD: What is your worst grammar pet peeve?

READER: "Your" instead of "you're" and the use of 's to indicate plural.

FD: What are some factors you consider in advancing a script in the early rounds? How do those factors change in later rounds?

READER: In the early rounds, I am looking for something that grabs me -- a compelling character, interesting subject matter, a clever premise, strong entertainment elements (funny comedy, successful suspense, scary horror, etc.) -- something that suggests the piece has potential. In later rounds, I am looking for those same elements, but I am also looking for solid craftsmanship -- good writing, solid structure, well-developed characters, good dialogue, etc. I am more forgiving of those things in the early rounds; less so in later ones.

FD: What gets you the most excited about the scripts you've really loved?

READER: Every script I've loved has made me feel something -- has made me laugh (hard), cry; has excited me or thrilled me or scared me. Any script that can do that is a winner in my book.

FD: What advice would you give screenwriting entering the Big Break Contest?

READER: Don't be in a hurry to submit your script. You get no points for being one of the first entrants. Instead, rewrite and rewrite and rewrite until you've done all you can to make the script as good as it can possibly be and then turn it in. I'd rather read a great script late in the contest than a lousy one early on.

Submit your scripts between February 22, 2017 and July 14, 2017 to be considered in the 2017 Big Break Screenwriting Contest! Check out our rules for entry and prizes here