When it comes to screenwriting contests, Final Draft’s Big Break™ screenwriting competition, unlike others, puts its winners face-to-face with Hollywood’s most elite dealmakers. “It’s a great way to get noticed. And, you need to get noticed. This competition is a good one,” says second place winner Mick Connolly, the 48-year-old advertising director from Melbourne, Australia. His winning script is a dark comedy called Crims, the story of a small time crook who goes to a self-improvement class in order to win back the love of his estranged daughter. The script has landed Connolly an A-list agent and a manager. Script sat down with the writer see how Big Break™ changed his life.
SCRIPT: How did you become a screenwriter?
MICK CONNOLLY: I made a lot of short films, and clips when I was younger. But then about 15 years ago, I fell into advertising. A did a little bit of television drama and children’s TV. I consider myself a writer/director, actually, but more recently I decided to lean more toward the writing. Everybody starts with writing their own scripts and directing them in Australia. Now, I’m divorced and I have my kids half the week, and I just thought writing was a better fit for my life. To be a director, you have to be so mobile. I don’t live in L.A. either. Writing is better for me, and I love it.
SCRIPT: Tell us more about the script.
MICK CONNOLLY: It’s an ensemble. It’s four generations of a family who have fallen apart and we see how they get back together. It’s a “mosaic,” as some people have described to me. The tone is like Raising Arizona. A dark comedy. It’s set in Australia, but really the setting isn’t that big a character. So, it could be anywhere, really. It’s an urban comedy. It could be set in the States or in England. I’m not sure where the idea came from; it just popped into my head a couple of years ago.
SCRIPT: Describe your writing process.
MICK CONNOLLY: The idea does sort of tumble through my mind for a while before I do anything about it. Then, I start a scrapbook. I might think of scraps of dialog and character. I start to collect things about the story. That might go on for six months or more. Then, when I decide I’m going to do something, I do a treatment and index cards and get the shape of it before I write a draft. I’d love to be able to get up each morning and write to a routine but I take breaks to go do an ad or things with the kids. So, my most productive time is when I have blocks of time. Otherwise, I’m mostly stealing time.
SCRIPT: Describe what it was like to win Big Break™?
MICK CONNOLLY: I just went into it thinking I’ll never see that $50 again. And then, six months later in comes an email, “You’re down to the last 200 hundred.” I got excited about that. Then, you’re down to the last 100 and last 50. That was an exciting thing because just to know that somebody was reading it and liking it and going into a room to fight for it to stay in the pile – that felt great. Winning really legitimized me and made me feel I wasn’t insane to try to do this for a living.
SCRIPT: What’s happened since you won?
MICK CONNOLLY: I’ve got an agent and a manger out of this. One of the great things about the competition was they got us lunch with some agents, managers and executives. They got us out there to meet people. It was good. The first lunch they had was about telling us what it was really like in Hollywood. They said, “If you’re expecting this script to launch you, that’s probably not going to happen. It’s probably on your second, third or fourth script, you will be found.” That was interesting. They said, “The myth of Hollywood being completely impenetrable is untrue. You will be found, if you have talent.” I really believe that. I’m represented by David Greenblatt. He was one of the founding agents of Endeavor. Now, he’s a manager/producer. I’m also represented by Danny Greenberg at William Morris Endeavor. Two really great guys. They’re hatching a plan for me and talking seriously about trying to get this made. They’re extremely positive, and they’ve got a lot experience and contacts so I’m very excited.