Frederick Mensch runs the web-site Moviebytes which offers a list of contests and resources for screenwriters. Here is a link to the site:
Q: What inspired you to start Moviebytes?
A: I’ve got an entrepreneurial nature, and a background in both screenwriting and programming. I wanted to start a website, so I looked around for a market that wasn’t being particularly well served. Screenwriting contests looked like a good fit.
Q: What is your own background in film?
A: I studied screenwriting at NYU. I’ve sold a couple of scripts, including an indie satire titled Supreme Ruler with Marcia Gay Harden and Vincent D’Onofrio attached to start. That’ll start shooting next year, hopefully.
Q: What are some of the qualities that make a good screenplay?
A: Characters in conflict. That’s pretty much it, I think. I’m partial to character-driven stories, so I’m a stickler for honesty and a distinctive point-of-view, as well. I like my heroes to have flaws, and my villains to have virtues.
Q: What makes for a really bad screenplay?
A: For me, the worse screenplays are the ones that are primarily regurgitations of movies that have already been made. Needless to say, I don’t go to studio movies very often!
Q: What is the most prestigious contest out there? (and what makes it so?)
A: The Nicholl Fellowships. In terms of prestige, the Nicholl is pretty much the beginning and the end of the conversation. There are a number of other great contests out there, but none of them are sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. If you look at the credits of their previous winners you’ll get a pretty good sense of what a Fellowship can mean to a writer’s career.
Q: What was the most unusual request you have ever had from a writer or contest judge/owner.
A: Every couple of months I’ll get an off-the-wall email from someone who wants me “write up” a great idea they have for a movie. They’ll describe the plot in mind-numbing, incoherent detail (I remember one about flying dinosaurs), and generously offer to share the profits if I’ll just write up the screenplay. Sweet deal!
Q: What is the most realistic film you have ever seen about Hollywood?
A: Day of the Locust. It’s a dark, apocalyptic depiction of folks on the fringes of the film industry in the 1930s. I’m not sure I’d describe it as realistic, but that movie (and book) has always struck an emotion chord with me.
Q: What film do you think has the best dialog ?
A: The Social Network. Aaron Sorkin tends to write about hyper-verbal overachievers, which means he can reveal character and show off his dialogue skills at the same time. Less articulate characters don’t lend themselves to that kind of treatment.
Q: What do you think is the most overrated screenplay ever?
A: 500 Days of Summer. I doubt it necessarily qualifies as the most overrated screenplay ever, but it did win an Indie Spirit Award, and a WGA Award nomination, and I just hated the gimmicky nature of the screenplay. If the story isn’t compelling, jumbling the narrative just makes it worse.
Q: Are you more of a Charlie or Donald Kaufman ?
A: I have a full complement of neuroses, so I think probably puts me in Charlie’s camp. He’s a genius and I’m not, though, so there is one small difference.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)