INTERVIEW: Christian Taylor of Taylor Lane Productions on Judging Screenplay Contests

This article was originally published on ScriptMag.

Christian Taylor has spent over a decade in the entertainment industry, working in talent and literary management at Industry Entertainment and Lighthouse Entertainment, and in development at Imagine Entertainment.

Christian founded independent production company Taylor Lane Productions in 2010 and soon thereafter produced Hick, the coming-of-age story about a 13-year-old girl’s life on the road, with a star loaded cast, including Chloe Grace Moretz, Blake Lively, Alec Baldwin, Eddie Redmayne, Juliette Lewis, and Rory Culkin.

Christian is currently in post-production on his next feature Measure Of A Man, a coming-of-age story set in the 1970’s that explores the issues of bullying in many forms, as well as the human need to develop inner strength and confidence. The film stars Donald Sutherland, Luke Wilson, Judy Greer, Blake Cooper, Liana Liberato, and Danielle Rose Russell.

Christian is serving as a judge in Script Magazine’s Access Screenplay Contest.  He was kind enough to answer a few questions writers entering the contest might find helpful:

Script: Is this your first contest or do you regularly serve as a judge?
Christian Tayor: This is my first contest, and I’m excited to be a judge in the Drama Category.

Script: It must be time consuming to serve as a contest judge, what motivates you to do it?
CT: I’m always searching for bold, fresh new voices. It’s particularly hard to find important, timely stories with richly drawn characters. I’m looking for stories that change the audience’s perspective on the world and leave you thinking long after you’ve left the theater.  I want to make films that people talk about and give them a reason to go to the cinema again.

Script: What drew you to this particular contest?
CT: I’ve always been a fan of Script magazine and was excited to be invited to judge the Drama category.

Script: Do you have a defined process or do you just dive in and see where the script takes you?
CT: I usually get a good sense of the level of writing, structure, characters, and story within the first act. A good script surprises you with unexpected twists, and I often gravitate towards those that break the rules of structure and character development. Every good story must have a fresh perspective and an engine to keep the reader engaged.

Script: How important is the logline to a contest judge?
CT: Writers often have a hard time with loglines. Especially if it’s a character-driven drama. I don’t think they realize how important they are in selling the premise. When I begin developing a script with a writer, I often ask them to come up with a logline because it encourages them to be more specific about the story they are telling. That said, I always judge a script by it’s content, so the logline is something that can be sorted out down the road.

Script: Is there a list of key elements or key factors you base your evaluation on?
CT: How familiar is the story? Who’s the audience? Why is the story important now? Is the voice fresh and exciting? Do we care about these characters? Are they fully developed and do they have a strong arc? What is the writer trying to convey and what are we left with? Is the story thought provoking and does it leave you with a new perspective?

Script: What strengths in a script do you feel can propel it to the winner’s circle?
CT: A fresh, authentic, human voice, with a strong sense of the world and its characters; a boldly confident and original script.

Script: Does reading a script early in the contest cycle versus late have an effect?
CT: Not for me. You always remember the good ones!

Script: Is there anything unique to a script for a contest versus a spec script a writer should focus on?
CT: Not really, but for a contest it can be more about the level or craft of writing versus a story that will live in the marketplace. A contest might be a good starting point for a writer to obtain representation, and an agent or manager may use his script as a solid writing sample to introduce the writer to studios and production companies.

Script: Other than winning, what’s the best way a writer can use contests to further their career?
CT: Exposure is always important. Agents, managers, and producers are always looking for exciting new writers, and contests are a great way to get your work out there as opposed to a blind query.

Follow Christian Taylor on Twitter: @xtiantaylor.
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