Big Break: Screenwriting Contest for Career Success

March 24, 2022
4 min read time

Are you thinking of submitting your pilot or screenplay to a screenwriting contest? Before entering, it’s important to know which one is worth a writer’s time and money. While there are several worthwhile ones out there for their prizes and connections, the Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest® has become one of the most respected. A proven staple of the film and television industry, it is designed to help launch the careers of aspiring screenwriters.

Big Break rewards screenwriters with over $100,000 in cash and prizes, including a series of A-list executive meetings. The contest itself is judged by top industry professionals, including renowned managers, agents, producers, and studio execs, thus offering unmatched networking and career opportunities. Many ambitious writers submit to Big Break for these contacts and meetings above everything else.

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

Some of the Big Break success stories include:

  • Joseph Greenberg (sold his script Man Alive to 20th Century Fox for Noah Hawley of 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. Currently 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 Netflix series Partner Track).

 
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. Final Draft’s Brand & Marketing Manager, Kala Guess, 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, I think, is we dedicate 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 that are on our distribution list. We put a lot of effort in year-round.”

2019 Big Break winner of the Diversity category, Ben Johnson Jr. echoed this sentiment and acknowledges the extra mile that Guess and Final Draft went for its scriptwriters. While Guess was treating the Big Break winners to lunch at the legendary Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood, she imparted some advice that has stuck with Johnson:

Kala said something to me — we had a lunch at Musso and Frank’s — with some of the agents and big companies. She was talking about winning Big Break and said, ‘This is such an awesome thing and congratulations, guys, but understand that the win only gives you an opportunity. You have to work your win.’ And it was something about her saying those words — ‘work your win’ — that settled deep in my heart and mind, and 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? And a lot of people had said to me, ‘It’s not always the winners that end up having a successful career. It’s people that really want it and pursue it.’ That’s what I took to heart and that’s what I did.”

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

So, when you’re writing a screenplay and thinking of entering it into a contest, remember Big Break offers a real opportunity to work in the film and television industry. It’s more than just the prizes; it’s the first major step to a screenwriting career.

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