The tenth-annual Big Break™ Screenwriting Contest helps aspiring screenwriters get their scripts into the hands of industry professionals. As Final Draft, Inc. works on the finalists of this year’s crop, we thought we’d talk to those industry professionals tasked with choosing the best of the bunch. Among them is Marvin Acuna, producer at Acuna Entertainment and co-founder of “The Business of Show Institute.” Here, Acuna outlines what he expects from a winning screenplay.
What are you looking for in a winning script?
I’m seeking commercially viable material. I’m looking for great characters and a universal story that can be distilled into one or two sentences, that can easily be conveyed on a billboard or a one sheet, and that can offer trailer moments so I can then give a marketing person at a studio the opportunity to greenlight the picture.
What advice can you give a writer wanting to do well in a contest?
Introduce your best material. Introduce something that tells a compelling story. Introduce something that has a first, second and third act. It must be riveting. When a judge reads your screenplay, they must be immediately engaged. The first 10 pages have to rock their world.
Describe the kind of script you can’t put down.
I love movies because they afford me the freedom to escape and enter a life and a journey that I might not otherwise experience. I expect a script to do that for me. I want to be the character and take the journey.
How important is proper screenplay format to your judging?
Anyone who submits to a competition and does not enter it with a screenplay in the appropriate format is someone who’s not serious about being a professional screenwriter. That’s one of the simplest things they can learn. You don’t need to have talent for something that’s already a standard.
Do you read scripts from an actor, producer or director’s POV, or all of the above?
I take the point of view of the studio. I want to know who I can cast in the picture. I want to know who my audience is via the genre. I want to know who I’m going to attract as a director and why this story is compelling enough for them to tell it.
What draws you in the most to a script: story, pacing, character, voice?
When I’m reading and I feel I’m in the room observing and having the opportunity to be a wallflower, that’s when I’m most drawn in. This is the difference between a gifted dialogue writer and a writer who’s just putting dialogue together: When I feel as if the writer is sitting in the room and transcribing the character’s dialogue, versus considering exactly what the character is going to say — that’s the key component. Most people have the ability to write great prose. Few people have the ability to capture the speech patterns, unique habits, and individual voices as if all they were doing is transcribing dialogue rather than writing it.