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NHFF Screenplay Competition Director, Dana Biscotti Myskowski, Gives Insight on What She’s Looking For in a Script

One of the best components of the New Hampshire Film Festival is the screenplay competition, allowing the festival to celebrate yet another aspect of filmmaking. With the competition well underway and the early deadline for submissions quickly approaching (June 5) Screenplay Competition Director Dana Biscotti Myskowski gives a detailed account of what she and the other screenplay judges are looking for in submissions:

What does any reader look for in a good story? Here are just a few of the things we are looking for as we read your script submissions to the New Hampshire Film Festival’s Screenplay Competition:

1) Entertainment. The script should pull us in and tell a compelling story that keeps us turning the pages, anxious to see the next turn of events.

2) Logic. Why does this story start today? Ever notice how action adventures and science fiction stories frequently begin with a high-energy scene? Or how a drama often begins with a funeral, a birth, or a wedding? Each of these scenarios provides a catalyst for change—a reason the main character must do something out of the ordinary.

3) Empathetic Main Character. The protagonist should be well rounded, flawed, and someone with whom the reader can relate. She/he must have a do-or-die goal that drives the action of the story forward, and we must be made to care whether or not she/he achieves her/his objective.

4) Well Rounded Antagonist. Equally important to a compelling tale is the development of the adversary. From her/his point of view, the antagonist is the main character of her/his own storyline. Rather than treat her/him as simply the villain in the black-hat, create a well-rounded character with ambitions and flaws, in equal opposition to the protagonist.

5) Closure. Does the final act tie together all the loose ends of the story? Is each subplot summed up and accounted for? Do we feel satisfied by this ending, or are we left stranded?

6) Proper Formatting. Screenplays are formatted as they are for a reason. They provide the first guidelines for a film, the blueprints from which all the plans are broken down by the various departments. A minute per page is the understood presumption, so instantly a producer can determine how many minutes the screen story will be. As judges, we are looking for a script that follows the rules of screenwriting and illustrates that the writer understands her craft.

7) Correct Spelling, Grammar and Usage. When done properly, readers don’t notice spelling, grammar and usage; however, when error upon error occurs, readers are tripped-up by the potholes in the script. Too many errors and a judge may grow frustrated with the piece, wanting to cast the script aside before long. Proofread. Revise. And proofread again.

We look forward to reading your screenplay. Enter today via WithoutABox (WAB) for a chance to win a fabulous two-week Writer’s Residency at Star Island Family Retreat and Conference Center. Early Deadline is June 5; Official Deadline is July 5; and the Late Deadline is July 15 (or July 30 for WAB members).