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Big Break: Screenwriting Contest for Career Success

March 24, 2022
5 min read time

Are you thinking of submitting your TV pilot or screenplay to a screenwriting contest? Before entering, it’s important to know which one is worth your time and money. The Big Break Screenwriting Contest has quickly become one of the most respected contests not just for prizes but for connections in the film and television industries. Big Break was designed to help launch writers' careers.

The Big Break Screenwriting Contest awards over $80,000 in cash and prizes, as well as meetings with A-list executives. The contest is judged by top industry professionals, including renowned agents, managers, producers, and studio execs, offering unmatched networking and career opportunities. Many ambitious writers submit to Big Break just for the contacts and meetings (although the prize money doesn't hurt).

In recent years, over 50 Big Break winners, finalists, and semi-finalists have signed with professional representation. Many have had their scripts optioned, sold, and produced, while others have found full-time work in television. Still others are being introduced to the various facets of the film and television industry through professional career guidance.

Some Big Break success stories include:

  • Joseph Greenberg sold his script Man Alive to 20th Century Fox for Noah Hawley (Fargo) to direct
  • Aadip Desai signed to Good Fear Film & Management, received a 2019 ABC/Disney Fellowship, and became a staff writer on The Goldbergs
  • Paula Sabbaga signed with Brian Spink of REALM, staffed on The CW's Dynasty and Walker, and is adapting The Grimm Legacy novels for Disney+
  • JJ Bailey signed with Markus Goerg of Heroes and Villains Entertainment and sold his pilot Echo to NBC
  • Greta Heinemann signed with Jeff Portnoy of Bellevue and sold a feature pitch to Amblin Entertainment
  • Adam Kline signed with Circle of Confusion and has a feature in production at Netflix
  • Mira Z. Barnum signed with TFC Management and wrote for the Netflix series Partner Track

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Creating a Screenwriting Career Off a Big Break Win

The primary focus of Big Break has always been to establish a screenwriting career for the winners and finalists. Kala Guess, Final Draft’s Brand & Marketing Manager, takes a hands-on approach, helping numerous Big Break contestants make significant connections, (sometimes even before the contest is over).

“The difference between our contest and others is that Final Draft dedicates the whole year to championing our writers, our finalists, and at all levels,” says Guess. “Last year, for example, we had two quarter-finalists get scripts optioned by producers from our distribution list. We put a lot of effort in year-round.”

Ben Johnson Jr., 2019 Big Break winner of the Diversity category, echoed this sentiment and acknowledged the extra mile that Guess and Final Draft go for their screenwriters. Johnson still remembers advice Guess imparted to the Big Break winners over lunch at Hollywood's legendary Musso & Frank Grill:

We had a lunch with some of the agents and big companies. Kala was talking about winning Big Break and said, ‘This is such an awesome thing, congratulations! But understand that the win only gives you an opportunity. You have to work your win.’ Something about her saying those words — ‘work your win’ — settled deep in my heart and mind.

I thought, ‘I’ve got to make the most of this opportunity.’ It’s not about the awards night and people seeing you and clapping and walking the red carpet, but what happens after that. What do I do with this bit of leverage that’s been given to me? A lot of people had said to me, ‘It’s not always the winners that end up having a successful career. It’s people who really want it, who really pursue it.’

That’s what I took to heart, and that’s what I did.

Since then, Johnson has been “working his win”: not only has he signed with Plain Text Lit management, he’s secured numerous writing jobs, including writing on a Netflix series and working on an international adaptation of Ugly Betty.

Next time you're looking at submitting to a contest, remember that Big Break offers more than prizes: it offers the opportunity to work in film and television. Big Break is the first major step to a screenwriting career.



Learn More about Entering the Big Break Screenwriting Contest!


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