By: Laura Huie
Shore Scripts created the anatomy articles in response to repeated requests to share successful scripts from our contests so that other emerging screenwriters could learn from their examples. Placing in a screenplay contest can create value for a writer’s IP and so meeting this request presented a challenge. How do you share what needs to stay private – at least for a while?
Deconstructing what made our Judges and Readers select a script for placement, rather than publishing the script in its entirety, was a way to meet this challenge. And, we think, it is even more useful to writers considering entering our contests.
We thank our former Winners and Finalists for sharing their scripts with us and allowing us to share our evaluations with a wider community. Read on to find out what, for us, makes a winning feature script.
All scripts start with a first draft, then you begin revising and editing until it becomes polished enough to submit to contests and share with film and television executives. The process may seem daunting at first, but with practice and a solid technical foundation—you’ll be there in no time.
With a standard feature screenplay ranging from 90-120 pages, the most challenging part is creating a cohesive and well-crafted plot within that chunk of time. One of the best ways to learn what makes a winning screenplay is by studying them on the page.
So, if you’ve ever wondered what makes a successful feature script, we’re going to break down THE FIRST MICHAEL by Michael Buonocore, the Grand Prize Winner from our 2022 Feature Screenplay Contest.
THE FIRST MICHAEL is a comedy film about a bumbling podcaster who chronicles his journey to Florida to confront his biological father. Soon discovering he got the wrong guy, Michael learns he’s not just on the hunt for a good Christmas story—he’s searching for the family he didn’t know he needed.
With any good story, you need to have a compelling concept. THE FIRST MICHAEL is a heartwarming and humorous tale with a simple yet effective premise. The flaky and angst-ridden protagonist feels suitably tested by the father-seeking premise, and the story captures the excitement around Michael’s podcast as his cult following and the pressure to deliver on the final show are regularly reinforced.
Michael and best friend/co-host Lanie’s road trip is suitably complicated and ill-fated. The long journey takes Michael back to his roots as the story delves deeper into his true self (rather than just the podcast host on a mission) and reveals his family background. Overall, for any writer diving into a new script, the concept is king, but it’s even better when paired with interesting and complex characters.