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 Mike Goldberg, principal and literary manager at Abstract Entertainment. In an interview with Script, Goldberg outlines what he expects from a winning screenplay, as both a manager and primary judge in the competition.
SCRIPT: Why did you want to to be part of the Big Break™ judging?
Mike Goldberg: First, I love helping young writers, and secondly it excites me like Christmas morning because you never know what great scripts you can discover when you’re doing a contest. We’re always on the lookout for unique voices and ideas. Judging this contest is the best way to find them.
SCRIPT: What are you looking for in a winning script?
MG: A great original concept, solid characters, lively dialogue, an unpredictable outcome, and a commercial slant.
SCRIPT: What’s the best advice you can give a writer wanting to do well in the contest?
MG:Write where your passions lie. Focus on characters and through them, what story you’re trying to tell. Most importantly, ask yourself this question, “Would anyone want to pay $14 to see this movie?”
SCRIPT: Describe the kind of script you can’t put down.
MG: A very well-written script that feels real. A script where I need to know what happens to the characters. It’s happened to me in all genres. It could be an action, drama, romantic comedy. My curiosity won’t let me stop halfway. If you’re enjoying a movie, you wouldn’t step away from it. The same is true for a script. If you’re reading a really good screenplay, you don’t want to put it down.
SCRIPT: How important is proper screenplay format to your judging?
MG: It shows if you understand your craft or not. When I get incorrectly formatted scripts, they’re a red flag for me. Creativity should be in the words that are written, not in what’s done to them.
[Ed.- Poorly formatted scripts would likely never make it to the top-tier of screenplays in any contest.]
SCRIPT: Do you tend read the script from an actor, producer or director’s POV, or all of the above?
MG: I analyze scripts for two things. First, the level and quality of writing. It may not be a commercial script, but I may respond to the writing. Secondly, I look for commercial viability. More specifically, is there someone out here who would want to buy this and make it?
SCRIPT: What draws you in the most to a script, story, pacing, character, voice … ?
MG: The writer’s voice. Voice plays into dialogue and description. Something that makes me laugh, something unique, something that’s not common or run of the mill. That’s what grabs me. I know it when I see it.