The 11th annual Big Break™ Screenwriting Competition helps aspiring screenwriters get their scripts into the hands of industry professionals. This year’s judges are Hollywood’s top of the line industry professionals, including Broken Road Production’s Todd Garner, producer of Anger Management, 13 Going on 30 and Knight and Day. In an interview with Script, Garner gives some insight on what he expects from a winning screenplay, as a producer and primary judge in the competition.
SCRIPT: Why do you find it exciting to be part of judging the Big Break™ Screenwriting Competition?
TODD GARNER: It’s always interesting to find and read new talent. Most of the time we end up hearing the same pitches, reading the same writers. So, to have the chance to read and discover new people is very exciting.
SCRIPT: What are you looking for in a winning script?
TODD GARNER: The idea is king. If you can’t distill your movie into 30 seconds or less, no matter what the artist feels or how interesting it is to him or her, the story is too complicated. I may love and I may do everything I can to get it made, but ultimately you have to convince the people who are going to come and see your movie in 30 seconds or less, to come and see your movie. Movies are a huge expense, and they require the work of a great marketing team to sell them. The easier it is to summarize the story, the easier it will be to sell it. After that, it’s up to your talents as a writer to make that idea as great as you possibly can.
SCRIPT: What’s the best advice you can give a writer wanting to do well in the contest?
TODD GARNER: Don’t try to be anything that they’re not. If you’re not funny, don’t write a comedy. Don’t try to follow any commercial trend. Don’t try to write a 3D movie just because that’s what’s hot right now. Do the best in the genre you’re writing. We keep seeing the same kinds of movie. When The Hangover makes $500 million, for the next six months all I’m reading is guys going to Mexico or guys going to Tahiti. But that’s been done before. It’s always the most original or unique thing that’s going to inspire people. It’s not going to be ideas rehashed from a year ago.
SCRIPT: How important is proper screenplay format to your judging?
TODD GARNER: It’s easy. As script has to be in the right format, spelled correctly, the right amount of pages. There are a million programs out there to help you do this right. Don’t make me work harder to read you. Write in the format that fits the type of story you’re writing. If you’re writing a television script, there’s a proper format for that. If you’re writing a feature, there’s a proper format to do that.
SCRIPT: Do you tend read the script from an actor, producer, director’s POV or all of the above?
TODD GARNER: I first read the script from my point of view. Do I think this is a story worth telling? Do I think this is an idea worth seeing? Do I think this is a movie I can sell? Can I sell it in a trailer? Can I sell it in an ad in the New York Times? I always read it from the point of view of ‘is this inspiring to me.’ It takes a long time to make a movie. I’ve had movies take two years, and I’ve had movies take seven years to make. There are some movies that seem to take forever. I’ve almost never seen it go shorter than a year. That’s why you want a good producer, a strong committed producer. They have to keep opening doors for you when the doors keep getting slammed shut. I stayed with Knight and Day for five years until we got Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise. You have to write a script that inspires people.