Script Angel: Are Screenwriting Contests Worth It?

Hayley McKenzie is a Script Editor and founder of Script Angel, helping screenwriters elevate their craft and advance their screenwriting career. Follow her on Twitter @scriptangel1.

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There are hundreds of screenwriting contests out there, but are they worth it? At the Screenwriters World Conference in Los Angeles, there was a whole session dedicated to ‘Making the Contest Cut’ but how do you know which, if any, you should be spending your hard-earned cash entering?

Screenwriting contests can be useful for:

screenwriting-contests-worth-it– Gauging where you are among your peers. They are subjective though, so don’t freak out if you do well in one and get nowhere in another.

– Getting you industry exposure. We all know how hard it is when you are unrepped to get the industry to read your script. Contests can circumnavigate the ‘no unsolicited submissions’ barrier. Some contests have industry players on their judging panel, like my recent Script Angel contest in association with the London Screenwriters Festival. Others will ensure that the finalists’ scripts are read by specific managers, agents and producers. Check their websites to find out what they are promising to do for you if you do win or place highly with them.

– As a ‘calling card.’ When you’re trying to get the attention of managers/agents and producers, being able to say that you won a well respected contest might help persuade them to read your script. The value of the win will depend on the contest’s reputation within the industry; placing in the quarter-finals of the prestigious Nicholl Fellowships probably has more value than winning a very small, brand new contest that no one in the industry has heard of.

– Giving you a deadline for your writing. Most contests run at the same time every year so you can plan ahead. Even those that don’t should give you plenty of time between their launch and last submission deadline. Knowing you need to get your script finished and polished by a certain date can be a great motivator.

– Money. Many screenwriting contests offer cash prizes. In my view, those offering cash but no exposure to the industry are to be approached with caution as in the long term what you most need is to be getting your script read by the people who can really help your screenwriting career. That said, a substantial cash prize might buy you the time off from your job to really make progress with your screenwriting.

So how do you choose between the hundreds of screenwriting contests out there? There are 338 contests listed just on MovieBytes. This is where it’s important to start getting to grips with the industry. I curate a list of well respected screenwriting contests in the UK and US, which I update monthly. If you attend screenwriting events like the Screenwriters World Conference or the London Screenwriters’ Festival you’ll hear producers, agents and managers mention contests they rate.

Here’s my run-down of the most well respected contests in the US:

  • The Nicholl Fellowship (run by The Academy)
  • PAGE International Screenwriting Awards
  • Austin Film Festival Screenplay & Teleplay Contest
  • Tracking Board Launch Pad
  • Tracking B Feature Script Contest
  • Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest
  • Script Pipeline
  • Blue Cat
  • Screencraft
  • Scriptapolooza

In the UK there is also:

  • Screenwriting Goldmine
  • BAFTA Rocliffe
  • Red Planet Prize

Many film festivals also have screenwriting contests and labs, including Sundance, The Hamptons International Film Festival, Edinburgh International Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, Nashville Film Festival and many more.

Are screenwriting contests worth it? Some of them definitely are. So, do your homework and research them. Make it a part of the strategy to get your screenwriting widely read in the industry. Budget for them and plan ahead so that you can get your script ready and polished in plenty of time.

Good luck!

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3 thoughts on “Script Angel: Are Screenwriting Contests Worth It?

  1. WaleM

    I’ve been doing contests for several years now and have been fortunate enough to make the top finals in some of them on this list. However, I’m going to have to agree with the growing body of opinion (that can be easily found online) that Script Pipeline is essentially a scam.

    Aside from the strong evidence of nepotism someone found between the owner masquerading behind a social media account and a family member (believe it was on Reddit) two issues I’ve learned from participating twice with them is that a) The contest is billed as inclusive as existing TV specs, however, this year I counted literally 1 existing teleplay out of all the quarter finalists. I’ve seen two separate divisions for pilots and existing shows but never 99% one with a cameo from the other.

    Also, FOR THOSE WHO VALUE YOUR INFORMATION, SCRIPT PIPELINE IS SELLING YOUR INFORMATION TO COPYRIGHT FIRMS FOR DISTRIBUTORS. Apparently I downloaded an episode of the show I got online almost a year before the week before results were announced. That Monday my cable was shut off because of that download nearly a year ago (a time gap for these sort of things I’ve never heard of), the same as the episode I submitted, what a coincidence!).

    And at the end of the day, the UI on the site is just a nightmare itself, I had to email the guy after to get the script submitted properly. I’ve never had this much difficulty or suspicious behavior from any other major contest, and in my honest opinion, Script Pipeline has no place on these lists if they’re genuinely written to help aspiring writers.


    Hayley — thank you for the post. Enjoy reading your articles! Despite many who discourage the entering of screenplay competitions, I am on board with you that they are worthwhile to enter. I am someone who has experienced a moderate level of success through these competitions and have gotten noticed, where if I never entered, I would still be at square 1. It keeps writers on a deadline (something that is critical for new writes) and offers some validation if you are lucky enough to place.

    I just wrote a post on my blog on this topic about my real-life experience entering screenplay competitions if anyone here is interested:

    Thank you!!

  3. Arnaudlimit

    Hi Hayley,
    Thank you for this list of contests, it’s invaluable insights 🙂
    What about TV Spec Script contest ? Any contest you’d recommand ? I just participated in the Nick Writing Program, hosted by Nickelodeon which offers a 6 months paid internship in their writer’s room and i’d like to capitalize on the script I’ve written.
    Thanks for any advice you might give !
    (Would you mind posting your comment to my email box too ? I wouldn’t want to miss it ! 🙂