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2021 Big Break Grand Prize Winner David Page on keeping the file open

April 12, 2022
5 min read time

David Page isn’t a stranger to prestigious screenwriting contests. As a multi-quarter finalist, semi-finalist and finalist for contests like The Academy Nicholl Fellowship, the PAGE Awards, ScreenCraft and the Austin Film Festival, Page’s scripts are racking up the accolades. More recently, he’s been named the overall winner in the feature category of the Big Break Screenwriting Contest® .

He said he got inspiration from Raiders of the Lost Ark, a movie he watched 10 times in the movie theater.

“When I look back, I got inspired by that,” Page explained. “I was also very intrigued by the big push for horror in the ‘80s. That was the first Friday the 13th movie. Alien was the original Alien and was around that time. And I didn't know what I was doing.”

He might’ve not known what he was doing, but he knew that he wanted to write.

“The first movie I wrote was an absolutely terrible horror movie,” he said. “This was the beginning of what Roger Ebert called the ‘dead teenager movies.’

He explained, “I had 13 incredibly ridiculous gory deaths being done by the janitor at a university. He could get around in the tunnels underneath the school where the steam pipes were. I forget what his motivation was. Whereas the hero was a writer for the student school paper who ended up in the final confrontation. But it was bad.”

He added that the action movie he wrote next was also “bad.”

This is the fantastic thing about writing. We all start somewhere, and those who keep at it and hone their craft can start to build their writers’ toolbox and portfolio of contest-winning scripts. In Page’s toolbox are industry consultants Lee Jessup and Pilar Alessandra.

“In my brief [Big Break Awards] speech, I gave a shout out to Pilar,” he said. “She's wonderful. And for my next script, I'm going to continue to work with Lee, including on how to hopefully make the most of this contest.”

Making the most of his Big Break win for his feature sci-fi fantasy, Head Games, will include enjoying the incredible prize package.

When deciding whether to enter the contest or not, Page ultimately concluded “that Final Draft is a big deal.”

“I had tweaked the script to tighten it up,” he continued. “I sent it into Final Draft and it kind of, gradually went up the ladder. I was very happy when it was one of the top three in its category. And then happier still when it was the finalist in its category.”

He recalled feeling hesitant of his possible win, until he got a call from Heather with Final Draft.

“I remember when she [Heather] called me,” he said. “I said, ‘I think I need to sit down whether this is good news, bad news, or no news.’ I sat down and she said, ‘You won.’”

“I was kind of in shock,” he continued. “To be honest, I had forgotten how generous the prize package was. But I’m going to be going to L.A. and I presume meet some people. [There’s a] UCLA Extension course I've signed up for. There are half a dozen other pretty nice things here. And there was new Final Draft software.”

“I really am flying high,” Page concluded.

Page recalled attending one of life Tony Robbins’ events and walking over fire, feeling as if he had “renewed hope; optimism.” He said he feels the same about his new award title.

While Page is savoring his win, he recognizes that his “main job is to keep creating content.” At the moment, he is working on several scripts at once, including a new feature thriller.

“I really like inventive action heroes who use their brains to get out of situations,” he said as opposed to their physical strength.

“A guy at the Austin Film Festival pointed out that if you were writing action back in the early days of the James Bond movies, for example, it was easy to come up with action that nobody had done before,” Page said. “Now we've had 100 years of cinema, the last 50 of which have had a boatload of action movies, and it's tough to come up with a new chase, a new fight, a new anything action-oriented that hasn't been done a bazillion times. So, I like that challenge and I think I've done that in my scripts. And I would be happy to continue doing it.”

He advises writers to “just open the file.” He looks to the words of Scott Adams, the creator behind the Dilbert comic strip.

“One of the things he says is, ‘Don’t say I'm going to exercise today. He says to say I'm going to the gym today. If I go to the gym, and I really feel like I don't want to exercise. I can bail. Okay, and he's done that maybe two or three times a year. Otherwise, it’s I'm here, I might as well exercise, so I'm sort of that way with opening the file.”

“Sit in your chair and just open the file,” Page said. “I guess you could walk away if you really just sit there for an hour and do nothing. You could walk away, but you're probably not going to do that. Type something. Some people call it the vomit draft. Anything you type can be thrown away. Don't worry about it. Just do something.”

Just opening the file has worked for Page so far, and we can’t wait to see to what heights that tactic takes our 2021 Big Break winner.

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