Interview with JumpStart Competition Judge Mitchell Bendersky @ Gramercy Park Entertainment



Competitions can be a great way for emerging writers to get their work in front of industry professionals and see how their writing performs in a real-world setting. But it can be difficult to send your precious projects to be judged in a competition, especially when you don’t understand the judges’ thought processes. At Roadmap, we share our chats with our judges to give you as much insight and transparency as possible.


We interviewed JumpStart Competition Judge Mitchell Bendersky, Literary Manager at Gramercy Park Entertainment, to help shine a light on what it’s like to judge screenwriting competitions.

When it comes to judging competitions like the JumpStart Writing Competition, what do you look for in a writing sample that jumps off the page and excites you for more?

Voice is always the priority. Individuality and specificity is the most crucial thing, at least for me.

Beyond that, subversion and doing something inventive with the material, especially considering how oversaturated this industry is, will always make it more compelling and help it stand out to me.

How important are the writer's bio & previous life experiences in your judging process? What should they include in their bio? What shouldn't they?

It's always great to have context as to why someone decided to write what they wrote, and it will also partially inform how their voice was crafted.

They should include the parts of their life and experiences that help highlight their voice in the best way. The bio is a written pitch in itself, so how does it pitch the writer in the best way while also being succinct and to the point? They shouldn’t include anything that doesn't need to be included! Good bios to me are usually around a paragraph.

What do you get out of being a screenwriting competition judge? What do you do it for?

Finding exciting new material is always nice, but the best part about these is just getting to partner up with the organizations actively doing their best to elevate and cultivate the next generation of creators. It's exciting to be even a small part of that.

Can you share a favorite story about a writer you've met or read through a screenwriting competition (maybe even JumpStart in years prior?) that excited you enough to push them to the next level?

I have a good hunch my favorite story will come at this upcoming event!

Let's talk about you. What are you passionate about other than screenwriting & filmmaking? Do you find that your hobbies or non-work related interests ever work in tandem with the types of stories and writers you're drawn to? 

I love running, music, walking, walking and/or running to music, eating way more dessert than I should, Lego, Grand Theft Auto IV, Lego Grand Theft Auto IV (ugh I wish), and hopefully the two kittens I adopt by the end of the year!

I wouldn't say my interests are too in tandem with the types of stories I'm drawn to. If anything, it's more so the opposite because I find myself drawn to experiences and stories I have less of a connection to or an understanding of.

What are some of the most common pitfalls you see writers fall into that works against them? How would you recommend avoiding those common mistakes?

  • Wanting to send your stuff out too early 
  • Not having a clear sense of what your voice actually is
  • Not understanding the difference between telling someone about yourself/your material and actually pitching yourself/your material
  • Erratic communication skills
  • One foot in/one foot out energy when it comes to this as a full-time career.

I don't really have any advice on how to avoid most of these because a lot of them have to be treated through personal journeys.

How can you tell from the page alone if a writer is ready for their screenwriting career to be jumpstarted? How can you tell if they're ready to be signed & get to work or if they're maybe a bit greener than you'd prefer?

If the voice is strong enough, I don't care how green they are.

Last Question: What are you watching right now? What kinds of stories do you want to see more of in Hollywood?

In the past month or so I've watched/have been watching:

  • BLADE (for the first time!)
  • BLUE GIANT, the live action 

I would like to see more stories with subtitles in mainstream Hollywood!

Roadmap Writers is committed to breaking down the barriers into this industry. Our competitions are judged by industry professionals and can get you real traction.


Top Tier Competition
One winner will get one year of Top Tier (where most of our success stories come from!) for FREE!
Regular Deadline: February 23rd

Coletta Preacely-Garcia Diversity Fellowship
Once a quarter, Roadmap offers one writer a FULL SCHOLARSHIP for the first four steps of the Career Writer’s Program!
Entry is always FREE
Deadline: March 10th

GPS Fellowship
Four writers will be chosen to participate in a six-month mentorship program with an industry executive
Early Deadline: March 1st


The Roadmap Promise

Roadmap Writers prides itself on the quality of executives we bring to our programs and we work hard to get you the best feedback possible.

Our vetted executives are chosen by the legitimacy of the companies they work for and their ability to evaluate pitches and pages.

Only the executives you sign up for will be provided with your materials.