Judges

The industry judges for the 2020 Big Break Contest are listed below. Final Draft thanks these executives and managers for their time and passion for supporting scriptwriters.


  • Jeff Portnoy
    Bellevue ProductionsPrior to joining Bellevue, Jeff Portnoy worked at Creative Artists Agency, The Gotham Group, Resolution Talent Agency and Heretic Literary Management. At CAA, Jeff worked as a story analyst for six years, writing coverage and story notes for scripts written by clients and projects set up at major production companies and studios.Jeff’s clients include Josh Golden, whose script Road to Oz landed on the prestigious Black List, was an Academy Nicholl Fellowship Finalist and sold to New Line Cinema; Mark Mavrothalasitis, who has projects set up at Alcon Entertainment and Awesomeness Film & TV; and writing team Samuel Franco & Evan Kilgore, whose script Mayday 109 is set up at Thunder Road Pictures.Originally from Massachusetts, Jeff received a bachelor of fine arts degree in film production from Point Park University in Pittsburgh and studied film and television writing at UCLA Extension.

  • Jewerl Ross
    Silent R ManagementSILENT R MANAGEMENT founder Jewerl Ross grew up in Los Angeles and left Southern California to study philosophy at Yale. After graduating, Ross returned to L.A. to work in entry-level positions at ICM and Paradigm. Ross was an agent for three years at a boutique agency and later a manager for 4 years at a small management company. In 2006, Ross founded SILENT R MANAGEMENT.
    Some of SILENT R MANAGEMENT’s director clients include: Academy Award winner Barry Jenkins, the writer and director of Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk. Moonlight was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and won 3 (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor), and If Beale Street Could Talk was nominated for 3 Academy Awards including Best Adapted Screenplay. Bora Kim, the writer and director of House of Hummingbird. The film had its US premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival where is won three awards included Best International Feature, Best Actress in an International Narrative Feature and Best Cinematography in an International Narrative Feature. The film had its international premiere at The Busan International Film Festival where it won the Audience Award and screened at Berlinale where it won a Special Jury Prize. The film is currently listed at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Brazilian auteur Gabriel Mascaro directed Divine Love which premiered in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. The film has received widespread critical acclaim and is currently 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Before Divine Love, Gabriel directed Neon Bull (2015) which premiered at the Venice International Film Festival where it won the Horizons Special Jury Prize. His film August Winds (2014) premiered at the Locarno International Film Festival and won a Special Jury Prize. Yann Gonzalez, the writer and director of Knife + Heart (2019) and You and The Night (2013), both of which premiered at Cannes in official competition and as a part of International Critics’ Week, respectively. For Knife + Heart, Yann was awarded the Prix du Jean Vigo, an award given annually to a young director for his or her independent spirit and stylistic originality. Since its induction in 1951, French greats like Jean Luc Godard, Chris Marker, and Alain Resnais have won the prize. French auteur Robin Campillo, the writer and director of BPM (Beats Per Minute). BPM (Beats Per Minute) premiered at Cannes in 2017 winning the Grand Prix and receiving widespread critical acclaim (98% on Rotten Tomatoes). It has since won six César Awards (the French version of the Academy Awards), including Best Film and Best Original Screenplay. It also won the Best Foreign Language Film from the New York Film Critics Circle along with nearly 100 other awards worldwide. Steven Piet & Erik Crary, director and producer on The Act for Hulu and UCP. Piet and Crary’s film, Uncle John premiered in competition at SXSW. Avant Garde filmmaker Patrick Wang, the director of In the Family (2012), The Grief of Others (2018), and A Bread Factory (2018). All of his films opened to widespread critical acclaim. Patrick was nominated for Best First Feature at the Indepedent Spirit Awards in 2012, and A Bread Factory was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards for 2019.

    Some of SILENT R MANAGEMENT’s writer clients include: Matthew Aldrich, writer of Coco for Pixar Animation Studios. The film was released to rave reviews (97% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), has since grossed over $800 million dollars worldwide, and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Aldrich recently signed a three year overall deal at Netflix. Seth Rosenfeld, co-executive producer of The Get Down with Baz Luhrman for Netflix, is currently a writer and co-executive producer of the new Amazon show Them: Covenant from Lena Waithe. Jack Stanley, writer of the original pilot, Perfect Girl, which sold to Amazon, and the original feature scripts, Possession: A Love Story and Sweetheart. Possession has had Anne Hathaway circling, and Sweetheart has had Blake Lively and director Patty Jenkins circling. Both scripts were on “The Black List.” Jack is currently re-writing Lou for Paramount, Bad Robot and and actress Allison Janney. Evan Endicott, writer and producer for Jigsaw for Netflix, Into the Badlands for AMC, and Warrior for Cinemax, Justin Lin and Jonathan Tropper. Hannah Schneider, writer and producer of Why Women Kill for CBS All Access. She is also the writer and producer of the original pilot script, Homecoming. The pilot is set up at Showtime after a bidding war that included several cable, network, and streaming suitors.


  • John Zaozirny
    Bellevue ProductionsJohn Zaozirny is a principal at Bellevue Productions, where he oversees a slate of film and television projects and heads their literary management department. His projects include Blond Ambition by Elyse Hollander, set up at Universal Pictures and produced alongside Michael De Luca and Brett Ratner; Infinite by Ian Shorr, set up at Paramount Pictures and produced alongside Lorenzo Di Bonaventura; Eli by David Chirchirillo, set up at Broad Green Pictures; Capsule by Ian Shorr, set up at Twentieth Century Fox and produced alongside Hutch Parker; and Cristo by Ian Shorr, which was set up at Warner Brothers and is now set up at Audible.com as an audio mini-series.Eli, Cristo, and Capsule made the prestigious annual Black List, the collection of the best unproduced screenplays of the year, as voted on by film industry executives and Blond Ambition topped the 2016 Black List.John most recently produced Parallel alongside Bron Studios, which stars Aml Ameen, Martin Wallstrom, Georgia King and Mark O’Brien. Parallel was written by Bellevue client Scott Blaszak and directed by Isaac Ezban. John also produced Always Watching, written by Bellevue client Ian Shorr and directed by James Moran. As a literary manager, John’s clients including Ian Shorr (Infinite, Always Watching, Office Uprising, Splinter) David Chirchirillo (Cheap Thrills, Eli, Good Match), Scott Blaszak (Parallel), Andrew Zilch (A Crooked Somebody), Peter Gamble (Office Uprising), Elyse Hollander (Blond Ambition), Kathy Charles (Kings of Maine), Edwin Cannistraci (Pierre, Pierre), Chris Thomas Devlin (The Wretched Emily Derringer), and Tom Cartier (The Builder). Raised in Vancouver, Canada, John is a graduate of the Tisch Film and Television program at New York University.

  • Sonia Gambaro
    3Pas StudiosSonia A. Gambaro is a producer & manager based in Los Angeles. She launched her own shingle, POLLINATE ENTERTAINMENT to develop and produce diverse stories for TV, Film, Digital and VR at the top of 2017. Prior to starting her own company Sonia was the development executive at Madhouse Entertainment where she focused on acquiring rights to various types of intellectual properties; books, international formats, articles, and life rights, to adapt for film & television. She had previously took a step down in position to work as an assistant for Madhouse Co-President, Adam Kolbrenner to learn the finer aspects of management. Two lengthy stints at Televisa USA as the Development Coordinator and Paradigm Talent Agency as an Agent Trainee were integral to creating her foundation. As a student at UCLA, Sonia interned at Todd Garner’s Broken Road Productions and Gary Goetzman’s and Tom Hanks’ banner, Playtone.

  • Natalie Covault
    Brillstein Entertainment PartnersNatalie Covault is a manager at Brillstein Entertainment Partners. She represents writers and directors in both TV and film. Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, she began her career in entertainment working in the comedy touring department at APA. After working with the industry’s top standup comedians, she transitioned into literary representation and joined Brillstein in 2013. As an assistant, she worked with many of Brillstein’s clients and began building her own list of artists including a slew of up-and-coming writers. Natalie is a graduate from the University of Nebraska where she received her BFA in Film and New Media at the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film.

  • Roberto Larios
    VerveRoberto Larios is the TV Coordinator and an Agent Trainee for Verve Talent & Literary Agency. A Chicago native, Roberto is a Notre Dame alum and DePaul MFA recipient who started in the mailroom at Verve in September 2017. He was recognized as an Assistant to Watch by Variety in the Fall of 2018 and is focused on helping with Verve’s mission to discover underrepresented voices and talent, especially those who identify as LatinX.

  • Krista Sipp
    First Friday EntertainmentKrista Sipp is a literary manager based out of Los Angeles. She and her partner, Devon Byers, founded First Friday Entertainment in 2017. First Friday is a management and production company representing writers, directors, and producers in the film, TV, and digital space. Originally from Connecticut, Krista started her career at management company Circle of Confusion in 2008. After holding positions at studios and production companies across the industry, she returned to Circle of Confusion in 2015 before moving on to launch her own company. Currently, Krista is focused on developing clients with fresh voices and diverse points of view. She loves to discover writers and directors from backgrounds that traditionally have been underrepresented in theentertainment industry and creating access for the stories they have to tell. Her clients have worked on projects such as A BLACK LADY SKETCH SHOW (HBO), KATY KEENE (CW), the upcoming independent feature TUNNELS, starring Susan Sarandon, as well as the upcoming Legendary comic book series LUPINA.

  • Michael Chung
    VerveMichael Chung is a Socal native who received his bachelorsin English at SUNY Buffalo and a Masters in Entertainment Industry Management at Carnegie Mellon University. After graduation, he started in the mailroom at UTA and worked as an agent trainee in the Motion Picture Literary department. In 2018 he joined Verve where he is currently a Motion Picture Literary Agent.

  • Audrey Knox
    The CartelAudrey Knox worked her way up from Receptionist to Manager at the Cartel. She has experience in both scripted and unscripted television, on set, in production, and in writers’ rooms, and she has a BFA in Screenwriting from Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. Her true passion lies in producing depressingly introspective comedies, but she’s never met a British gangster drama she hasn’t liked. Audrey also has a four-year old rescue mutt who has performed with the hit comedy rap trio “Three Loco.”

  • Matt Dy
    Literary Manager, Lit Entertainment GroupMatt Dy attended the University of Texas at Austin and received a Bachelor of Science in Radio/TV/Film with a focus on screenwriting. He joined Adam Kolbrenner’s Lit Entertainment Group as a literary manager in 2019. Previously, he worked at Austin Film Festival (AFF) since 2008 where he served as the Director of Script Competitions and facilitated the evaluation of thousands of annual script submissions reaching a then record of 10,580 submissions in 2018. Through AFF, he helped shepherd the careers of countless writers and is thrilled to continue championing writers as a literary manager.

  • Chris Coggins
    Heroes and Villains EntertainmentChris Coggins has over a decade of experience in feature, television and digital series development and production. She began her career directly after graduation from The University of Southern California School for Cinematic Arts working as a Creative Assistant at Escape Artists/Sony Pictures.At Escape Artists she assisted on productions The Pursuit of Happyness, The Weather Man, The Taking of Pelham 123, Knowing and The Great Debaters. There, she ascended through the ranks and procured numerous projects for the company including The Ends of the Earth, Fall From Grace, Seven Pounds, Masterpiece, Rumspringa! and I Want to *$&% Your Sister. She also secured the scripts for and co-produced The Back-Up Plan and Hope Springs. Coggins then moved on to working at Allison Shearmur Productions at her home studio Lionsgate and procured projects Burial Rites, Endangered and Nerve for the studio. There, she also developed Pride, Prejudice and Zombies and Cinderella. She then progressed to Rock Paper Scissors Entertainment as Head of Development. There she built a production slate, produced the PSA Take Yourself on a Date and was responsible for development on the company’s new media projects for The Oscars, HBO and Amazon. Coggins recent independent projects include producing the spec pilot Angelino Heights, PSA Not on My Watch and the music video for Alekesam’s All is Forgiven. Next, Coggins worked at Luc Besson’s studio EuropaCorp and procured projects Unt. Aniston Superhero Project, Fae and the English-language remake for the Japanese blockbuster Shield of Straw.She recently moved into management at Heroes and Villains Entertainment representing writer, actors, directors and wellness professionals. Currently, She is a member of Film Independent, LACMA, the LA Conservancy and the spcaLA.

  • Zack Zucker
    Bellevue ProductionsZack Zucker is a Junior Literary Manager at Bellevue Productions, where he represents unique voices amongst screenwriters and filmmakers. Prior to joining Bellevue, he produced independently, and has a feature, The Novice, currently in post-production. He has also worked at Google, United Talent Agency, and in feature development at 20th Century Fox. Zack is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the University of Southern California’s Peter Stark Producing Program.

  • Neil Titus Thomas
    Media Rights CapitalNeil Titus Thomas is an Indian-American television executive from Artesia, California. He is currently a Manager of TV Development at Media Rights Capital (MRC TV), where he works on sourcing & developing scripted content for the studio’s growing TV slate. Previously, Neil worked in the Corporate Development & Strategy group at MRC and got his start working at CAA, Lionsgate & Variety. Neil is a graduate of the University of Southern California (USC) and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations/Global Business.

  • Leyla Kader Dahm
    Citizen Skull Productions ManagementLeyla Kader Dahm is a literary manager and producer at Citizen Skull Productions Management. After earning her master’s degree in Communication at Cornell University, Leyla turned her attention toward a career in film. She started out in development and production at Miramax/Dimension Films and went on to become a sought-after, high-level script analyst for clients such as Mike De Luca Productions, Broadway Video, The Weinstein Company, and Big Beach.
    Most recently, Leyla ran the film development department for Hollywood veterans Ed Jones and Cary Granat and was in charge of the narrative for rock star Perry Farrell’s proposed Las Vegas immersive experience, Kind Heaven. Leyla is a prolific writer and is the author of the YA novel Annabeth Neverending and sold her original screenplay, SURVIVAL INSTINCT, to Nickelodeon Original Films. She recently moved into the world of literary management and is enjoying developing projects with her growing roster of top-notch writer and director clients. Her focus is on representing minority and female voices.

  • Zach Book
    All Trades ContentZach Book started on HBO’s The Wire before working for Jerry Bruckheimer Television. In 2012, he partnered with Steven De Souza (Die Hard, 48 Hrs, Commando) to develop for film, TV and digital. Zach transitioned from development into literary management with ALL TRADES CONTENT where he produces for film and TV, while also representing writers, directors, and various IP.

  • Chelsea Benson
    Echo Lake EntertainmentChelsea Marelle Benson came to Echo Lake after earning her Master’s Degree in Producing from AFI in Los Angeles. She holds a BA degree in Film Production (with a minor in Literature) and a BFA degree in Dance from the University of Arizona. As a performer, she brings a unique perspective on entertainment as it relates to film and television and provides a fresh approach to the management team at Echo Lake.

  • Jonathan Hersh
    Housefire ManagementJon Hersh is an independent literary manager working with clients in both film and TV. Jon created Housefire Management in 2017 with the intent of finding fresh voices with incendiary material. Since then, his clients have gone on to develop film and TV projects with Universal, Lionsgate, Paramount Players, Atlas Entertainment, The Jim Henson Company, The CW, and many others. Jon broke into management after three years at Broad Green Pictures, a fledgling mini-studio where he helped found a new and innovative Story Department for the 100-employee company. Besides running a busy department that evaluated 50+ scripts per week, Jon had a hand in developing a slate of quality projects for the company and delivering detailed notes to writers and executives. Before working in development, Jon began his career at Creative Artists Agency where he worked as a full-time story analyst for four years. During his tenure there, he evaluated thousands of screenplays, pilots, and books, and gave detailed story notes to high-level clients of the agency. He is a graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts program.

  • Jason Lubin
    First Story EntertainmentJason Lubin is a manager-producer and the principal at First Story Entertainment, which he founded in 2018. The lit management company represents a diverse roster of talented writers and directors with fresh voices in all genres for Film and TV. Jason is also developing both feature film and television projects under the company’s banner. Prior to starting First Story, Jason was a seasoned development executive. He worked as the Head of Production & Development at Lynda Obst Productions, a Sony based production company whose credits include Interstellar, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Contact and the television shows Good Girls Revolt and The Hot Zone. Prior to Lynda Obst Productions, Jason worked at Lionsgate for seven and a half years where he rose to Story Editor in the Motion Picture Group and served as the junior creative executive on multiple feature projects. Jason cut his teeth as the assistant to CEO Jon Feltheimer and was named one of Variety’s Ten Assistants to Watch in 2013. A graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Jason currently sits on the board of the Trojan Entertainment Network where he was elected President of the organization for the 2018-2021 term.

  • Matt Koss
    Zero Gravity ManagementMatthew Koss is a Literary Manager at Zero Gravity Management, which is best known for the hit Netflix drama OZARK, and the acclaimed action-thriller THE ACCOUNTANT. He is an experienced reader, providing notes on hundreds of screenplays and is currently in development on multiple features and TV series. Matthew moved to Los Angeles from Melbourne after completing a double degree in criminology and business management. He graduated from the New York Film Academy with a Masters in film/tv producing and has since worked at various management/production companies such as MGMT Entertainment and Sundance Institute. If you’re ever around in Melbourne, make sure to catch one of his writer networking events!

  • Scott Stoops
    Good FearScott Stoops is a manager at Good Fear, a production/management company based in Los Angeles. The company represents writers, directors, actors, comic book publishers, authors and more. Hailing from Seattle, Washington (go Hawks), Scott started in the industry working at Paradigm, where he was an agent trainee in the feature literary department. He transitioned to Benderspink in 2014, and followed Chris Bender and Jake Weiner to their new outfit Good Fear. Today he represents a variety of emerging writers and filmmakers, and has sold both TV and film projects including Man Alive which was written by Joe Greenberg and sold to Fox with Noah Hawley (creator of FX’s Fargo) directing. Passionate about all things elevated and genre, his favorite films/shows of the last few years include Wild Tales, Coherence, BBC’s Black Mirror and the UK TV series Utopia. He is an avid consumer of horror, science fiction, comic books and comedy.

  • Brian Spink
    REALMA literary manager/producer at management company REALM which he started over five years ago. Prior to that, he spent over a decade at Benderspink. He represents screenwriters, TV writers, and directors as well as comic book and video game writers. Brian is one of the producers behind Sony’s Ratter movie which he discovered as a short film and developed into a screenplay. Film projects that Brian is producing include Abducted at Paramount, Last Voyage Of The Demeter at Millennium, and The Champion at Endurance. His clients have worked at every studio and with A-list filmmakers including Sam Raimi, Roland Emmerich, Michael Mann, Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Michael Bay, Ridley Scott, David Goyer, Neal Moritz, Drew Goddard, Gale Anne Hurd, Chuck Roven, Eva Longoria, and Will Smith.

  • Rachel Kiner
    Worldwide Acquisitions, Paramount Studios
    Rachel Kiner hails from Michigan and is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Master of Entertainment Industry Management program. After graduating from CMU in 2015, she went on to work as an Assistant in the International Television Distribution group at MGM Studios. She currently is a Manager of Worldwide Acquisitions at Paramount Pictures. Some recent acquisitions are KILLERMAN and BOOK CLUB, and the upcoming films DOWN UNDER COVER and THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO SEVEN. She holds a BFA from Syracuse University.
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