Final Draft Big Break is celebrating its 20th anniversary! We wanted to share some of the success stories. Meet Derek Asaff Winner 2014 Hour-Long TV Pilot Category.
With a degree in Creative Writing & Literature from Harvard University and a Masters Degree in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute Conservatory, Asaff found success at AFI’s Screenwriter’s Showcase optioning his award-winning action/comedy script, The Wheelmanto Original Film and Sony. Asaff was named in Tracking Board’s Young and Hungry List 2015 shortly after his one-hour drama, After The Merge, won Final Draft Big Break’s Drama Pilot Category and was optioned by Dark Horse Entertainment. His pilot, The End placed in the Top 10 of Tracking Board’s Launch Pad Pilot Competition in 2017 and led to representation with Lee Stobby Entertainment. Most recently, Derek was selected as a participant in Universal Picture’s Writing Program. Twitter: @JokerzWyldd
Why did you decide to enter Big Break with all the other contests out there?
Big Break has the good fortune of coming from a name in screenwriting that I’ve trusted for over a decade in Final Draft. It seemed like a no brainer to submit to their contest with their industry recognition.
What has happened to your screenwriting career since your advancement in the contest?
Since winning the drama pilot category, that script was optioned and shopped all over town. It helped me get on 2015’s Young and Hungry List. Shortly thereafter, I placed in the Top Ten of Tracking Board’s Launch Pad Pilot Competition in 2017 which led to new representation with Lee Stobby Entertainment. Most recently, I was accepted into Universal’s Writing Program where I’ll be writing two feature films for Universal Pictures over the next year.
What advice would you give to someone considering entering their scripts in contests?
It’s important to know what you hope to get out of entering before shelling out the entrance fee. Some contests have great cash prizes but no industry recognition. Some contests have no tangible prizes but can get you discovered. Some contests do none of the above and some do it all. You should know your goals before you enter. Are you looking for a payday or a career? There’s no wrong answer, but, if you only have so much money to spend on contests, you need to be more targeted. It also helps to know what kind of scripts have won in the past. There are contests I never enter because they just don’t dig my kind of movies. And there are some contests I enter every year because I write the kind of stuff they enjoy reading.
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What advice do you have for contest-winning writers to take the most advantage of that success?
Winning a well-known contest gives you a modicum of heat, and it’s important to capitalize on that heat before it fades. Wins are the kinds of bona fides that make for exciting query letters to new reps or execs. And social media has made sharing those bona fides that much easier too. You have to be your own publicist, so sometimes some shameless promotion is necessary. You won, now make sure people hear about it.
Tips for meeting executives?
You’ve got to get out there. Networking. Networking. Networking. Go to events. Enter contests. Keep hustling, and all the good things will come. Once you’ve met an exec (or an assistant or anyone really), form real relationships not transactional ones. If you hit it off with someone, they’ll want to make something with you. If not today, maybe in ten years, but it’s a marathon not a sprint so keep those relationships strong long term.
What's the biggest mistake writers make when entering contests?
Don’t put all your eggs in the contest basket. You may win, get some prize, get discovered, and light up this town… and you may get a reader who doesn’t connect with your script and you don’t even make the quarter-finals. Don’t let that subjective rejection bring you down. It’s going to happen all the time. Embrace it.
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