Big Break: Screenwriting Contest for Career Success in Film and TV
March 6, 2023
Is your screenplay or pilot contest-ready? With dozens of screenwriting contests out there, it’s important to consider which ones are worth your time and money. Over the past 20 years, the Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest® has become one of the most respected contests in the industry launching several careers for aspiring writers.
Big Break rewards screenwriters with over $80,000 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.
In recent years, over 50 Big Break semi-finalists, finalists and winners have signed with professional representation and many have had scripts optioned, sold and produced. Others have found full-time work creating or working on television series for Netflix, FX, Apple and HBO Max.
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+);
- Greta Heinemann (currently developing her own TV projects with NETFLIX and FX in addition to working on a movie for Amazon Studios that has Barry Levinson attached to direct and Priyanka Chopra starring, and David Permut producing.);
- 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, she is staff writer on The Irrational).
- Frank Arthur Smith (currently in post-production with his comedy series OPEN TO IT)
- Aaron Horwitz (his Big Break Finalist script, Green Bank has actors and a director attached.)
"Everyone recognizes the names Final Draft, and Big Break. It absolutely made a difference in getting my material read" - Frank Arthur Smith.
Michael Morro, who was notified only a few weeks ago that he was the 2022 Feature Grand Prize Winner, has already been in contact with several producers interested in his script.
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.
One of the differentiators between Big Break and other contests is Final Draft’s commitment to being a champion of screenwriters and helping writers from all over the world get their material in front of professional eyes.
But how can screenwriters differentiate themselves from other writers?
Jeff Portnoy, literary manager at Bellevue Productions and a judge for this year’s Final Draft’s Big Break, says that it all comes down to originality.
“You need to stand out and that is hard when there are 6,000+ applicants to a competition like this. Be bold when it comes to concept/premise/logline. It should be loud and buzzy and stand out. And of course, the voice/prose on the page also needs to stand out.”
When judging a script, Portnoy says character, dialogue and voice are the most important things for him that will get his attention.
But winning is only part of establishing a career in film and television. Success is when opportunity meets preparation. Big Break can give you the opportunity but you must be prepared to use that leverage to show off your ability to collaborate, maintain your voice and constantly work at your craft.
Not only do the winners gain professional opportunities but so do many quarter-finalists, semi-finalists and finalists. In fact, writers like Natasha LePetit whose script was a quarter-finalist has her screenplay currently in pre-production.
Big Break has proven to turn aspiring screenwriters into working writers because of their determination to help encourage success beyond the contest. 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.
Are you ready to take your screenwriting career to the next level? The Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting contest opens for entries March 15, 2023.
Written by: Steven HartmanSteven Hartman is an award-winning, optioned screenwriter. He was a Top 5 Finalist in Big Break’s Historical Category in 2019 and won Best Action/Adventure in Script Summit’s Screenplay Competition in 2021. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia College and had internships at Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Village Roadshow Pictures. Steve is a full-time writer and creative video producer by day and a screenwriter and novelist by night.