|Moviebytes’ Frederick Mensch of Palatine.|
Palatine screenwriter and computer programmer Frederick Mensch set out in 1997 to address an information gap that was frustrating his own professional efforts: the lack of an online resource specifically covering script contests.
“It was an obvious need at the time,” Mensch says, “and the need has grown dramatically since then,” as the number of contests in the U.S. has exploded from 40 back in ’97 to at least 250 today.
The result was moviebytes.com, a script database that has blossomed into a multi-service resource for screenwriters, with free and membership features. “Screenwriting contests remain our primary focus on movie bytes,” Mensch says. “But we’ve developed a host of complimentary services around that site.”
The success of Moviebytes has exceeded Mensch’s expectations, demonstrating the amount of demand that exists for accessible and up-to-date information on the screenwriting trade. “It has evolved into a nice business for me, which it wasn’t when it started,” Mensch says.
In addition to his the increasingly active web site and his day job as a programmer, Mensch continues to labor on his own original screenplays. He won’t talk about his latest project. “It’s in the embryonic stage and I don’t want to hex it,” he says. But prior scripts have flirted with commercial success.
After winning the Wisconsin Screenwriters Club contest, the Chicago native had his script “Bones” optioned twice, though it hasn’t gone into production. “‘Bones’ is a fantasy about a boy who finds a skeleton in his back yard, puts it together, and it comes to life,” Mensch says.
Mensch’s Los Angeles agent is presently circulating another script of Mensch’s, “Flyers,” a story about a group of Wisconsin kids who become “immune to the laws of gravity,” Mensch says.
Mensch hesitates to make any overarching proclamations on the state of the screenwriting market. But he does advise aspiring screenwriters that the number one consideration in marketing their script is “castability.”
“If you’ve got a high concept script that has a role they can fit a star into, you’re miles ahead of a script that doesn’t have that,” Mensch says.
The latest feature on Mensch’s site is Writerbytes, on which writers can promote themselves and their work. Writerbytes includes a template for writers to create their own screenwriting pages. “We’ve eliminated the obstacles to creating their own sites,” Mensch says.
Screenwriters can securely post screenplays with password access on Writerbytes, and create “blogs,” or online journals, which Mensch calls “the latest thing on the Internet.”
The Moviebytes section “Winning Scripts,” a co-presentation with Scr(i)pt Magazine, provides profiles on the writers and scripts that have prevailed in recent contests.
Another section, “Who’s Buying What,” tracks script sales so writers can target their work to the right agencies and studios, with a breakout section on sales by first-time writers.
“Who’s Buying What’s” monthly column, “Writer’s Block,” now features a piece by Graham Ludlow about the tribulations of adapting the public domain novel “The Call of the Wild,” only to discover that two other adaptations of the book were already in development.
Moviebytes provides contact and application information, and “report cards” for script contests. The site includes features on screenwriting software, and job boards for writers seeking work and employers seeking writers.
Mensch offers an e-mail newsletter of Moviebytes highlights, with a current subscriber base of 18,000.
For more information see www.moviebytes.com.?Ed M. Koziarski