The 11th annual Big Break™ Screenwriting Competition, supported by Final Draft Inc., 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 Mitch Solomon, producer at Magnet Management (Jack and Jill vs. the World). In an interview with Script, Solomon outlines what he expects from a winning screenplay, as a both a producer and primary judge in the competition.
SCRIPT: Why did you find it exciting to be part of the Big Break™ judging?
Mitch Solomon: It’s always interesting to look for talent, in general. Despite what a lot of people seem to think out there, it’s the push and pull of Hollywood gatekeepers. I don’t know if I would call myself a gatekeeper, but there’s a notion out there that there are people who have opportunities and people who don’t. The reality is that it’s exciting to look for new talent. It’s the lifeblood of what we do. Finding that writer or director is one of the things that gets you up in the morning. When you are able to work with someone from the beginning and see them grow, it’s a great feeling.
SCRIPT: What did you looking for in a winning script?
MS: I look for somebody who is able to create a script that I believe manages to combine a commercial sensibility with the kind of writing talent that gives that commercial sensibility a greater depth. The kind of script that you think is a film potential, I hope, and can say, I feel good about. This is the kind of movie that will appeal to mass audiences and critics. I’m looking for something to capture both sides of it. It doesn’t happen often enough, but when it does, it’s what you’re looking for.
SCRIPT: What is the best advice you can give a writer wanting to do well in the contest?
MS: Stay in plastics. (laughs). Really, the advice I give people is that it’s a fine line between pushing and really having a vision and being able to fulfill your vision. Recognizing what is good advice and is not good advice, knowing how to improve your script, and understanding the day-to-day working of Hollywood and how the movie business operates. Listen, and if you hear the same advice given more often than not, take it.
SCRIPT: What makes Big Break™ stand out among other contests, in your opinion?
MS: I genuinely believe the people involved with Big Break™ have a level of professionalism that I appreciate. There’s enough competition in this contest and you’re going through a number of different professional filters, that you’ll feel good about knowing you got to the top. The winners represent a stronger competition and that’s good for the final product.
SCRIPT: Describe the kind of script you just can't put down.
MS: A script that manages to combine a truly unique set of qualities. One is the ability to deliver dialog that surprise and pleases, sounds organic and sounds real. There’s a charm and a wit to that dialog that goes beyond every day dialog. Also, the story manages to contain surprises. Whether I’ve read thrillers that have kept me on my toes, or comedies that have made me laugh, those are the ones that keep me going. An action movie with inventive set pieces, and a drama that is riveting, those are the scripts I’m looking for.
SCRIPT: How important is proper screenplay format to your judging?
MS: I wouldn’t read a script that’s not in proper formatting. I don’t see it that often. I have in the past. In the last few years, though, not so much. I’ll admit I don’t read a lot of unsolicited scripts. I read some. And if I were to get an unsolicited script not in proper format, I wouldn’t read it. Programs like Final Draft exist to help writers get the format right.
SCRIPT: Do you tend read the script from an actor, producer, director's POV or all of the above?
MS: Yes and no. Yes, as a producer. From my perspective without being overly crass, I’m looking for something that people are going to make. There aren’t that many people in Hollywood. It’s one thing to make Iron Man, and you’ve got millions of people who see the movie. But at the same time, you have to get past 40 people to make the movie. You have to get people to send the money to make the movie. I want to read the script and hope those people are going to pay for it. It’s a very small audience and a very small window that I’m looking to get the script into. When I read a script I am thinking in some regards the right director and right actors, any given time and agenda, at the same time. I’m not looking for a script every single day that goes through the same cookie cutter. But when it is all said and done, the script needs to appeal to many people on a multitude of levels.
SCRIPT: What’s advice for writing specs?
MS: This is your only time to do it alone. Even if you’re writing with a producer, you’re still the owner of your material. Once it goes into the machinery of Hollywood, and it becomes successful – pray to God – you’re going to have a lot of different voices who are going to have opinions and some will be better than others. All have merit and influence on how they make the material. Write the script you want and listen to good advice along the way, but write the script you want.