2020 Big Break Screenwriting Contest - Rachel Kiner Gives Feedback
April 23, 2020
While the world awaits a cure for COVID-19, Final Draft is encouraging writers to do what they do best: Write. The Big Break Screenwriting Contest® 2020 is open and accepting submissions at early bird pricing.
To help encourage writers at all stages of their careers to take the plunge and submit their work, Final Draft is highlighting one of the contest’s newest judges, Rachel Kiner.
Kiner has a varied background; she started out as an artist herself after studying acting at Syracuse University. After hustling both theater gigs and commercials in New York City, she decided to head to graduate school; she earned her master’s degree at Carnegie Mellon in the Master of Entertainment Industry Management (MEIM) program.
Post degree, Kiner moved to Los Angeles.
During her first year as an intern in L.A., Kiner attended SXSW. She credits that experience for changing her life.
“I met a woman who talked about her career in acquisitions. That wasn’t something I knew was a job, but I knew it was absolutely what I wanted to do after I met her,” Kiner said.
“I loved the melding of creativity and business that acquisitions offered. I pivoted all my internships to be acquisitions-focused.”
After a number of internships and early jobs, Kiner landed in acquisitions at Paramount Pictures, where she secures titles for the Paramount slate, home entertainment and international distribution.
“We are looking for both big box office, tentpole movies, and smaller home entertainment releases, and indies,” Kiner said.
In acquisitions, Kiner reads a ton of scripts. She tracks projects if she feels they might be future fits for Paramount, too.
Her tip for a great read: “Something that’s unique that has a good cast, a good story and will appeal to a lot of people is what we’re looking for,” she said.
“The more people that can be into it, the better.”
Kiner also has great tips for pitching and knowing your market.
“I would want writers to have a clear and compelling way to pitch their project. You need to hook me to want to read it,” she said.
According to Kiner, being as concise as possible about both the idea’s concept and where it fits into the marketplace should also be a top priority.
“We are always working with comp titles, so what this script is similar to be it tone, budget, cast or feel,” she said.
“For acquisitions, it’s helpful for us if you know as a writer where your project fits in the marketplace.”
While things might feel uncertain in the business for the time being, Kiner does offer some tried and true words of wisdom on what sells and what had been selling before the world changed.
“Smaller thrillers are making a comeback,” she said.
“[Things] feel a bit more like ‘90s Ashley Judd type of content … Elevated genre horror is going on still. I’m a big horror fan, but I like psychological thrillers the most, and I still feel like they don’t happen that often, but the horror space is still super popular.”
It’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room when talking about any type of content at the moment; COVID-19 leaves the future of many things uncertain, but Kiner remains upbeat about both the process and the future of the business.
“This is giving people time to write more. Hopefully next year when films are coming out we will have some really, really smart projects. A lot of deep development is happening,” she said.
“I do think as far as theatrical, the theaters will open again. If anything, people want to be around others more. We are seeing that already, so I think movie theaters will thrive again in the future.”
Kiner, who has used meditation to help her navigate social distancing, recommends writers prioritize the stories they want to tell, even if time currently feels abundant.
“Take advantage of the moment. Instead of freaking out, try to center in and put that on the page,” she said.
“You can really hone into what you are feeling and live these characters and figure out their throughlines.”
Ultimately, Kiner is just excited to read for the competition; she said she is looking forward to all entries.
Final Draft’s goal is to ensure as many writers who want to enter the contest get to do so in these uncertain times. For more questions about the competition, writers can read more here.
Written by: Lindsay StidhamLindsay holds an MFA in screenwriting from the American Film Institute. She has overseen two scripts from script to screen as a writer/ producer. SPOONER, starring Matthew Lillard (SLAMDANCE), and DOUCHEBAG (SUNDANCE) both released theatrically. Most recently Lindsay sold PLAY NICE starring Mary Lynn Rajskub. The series was distributed on Hulu. Recent directing endeavors include the Walla Walla premiering (and best screenplay nominated) TIL DEATH DO US PART, and the music video for Bible Belt’s Tomorrow All Today. Lindsay is currently working on an interactive romcom for the production company Effin' Funny, and a feature film script for Smarty Pants Pictures. Lindsay also currently works as an Adjunct Screenwriting Faculty member at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. You can follow her work here: https://lindsaystidham.onfabrik.com/