What Can Screenwriting Contests Do For Your Writing Career?

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Why are screenwriting contests helpful for screenwriters?

Breaking into screenwriting is a complicated process, unless you’re a screenwriting contest winner. One of the main reasons industry people are hesitant to read unsolicited material is because they fear wasting time. The assumption is if a screenwriter is repped by an agent or manager, the quality of their work is high, therefore, reading the script would not be a waste of the executive’s time. But there is a way around that quandary of not having representation… enter screenwriting contests.

Get the scoop on benefits on participating in screenwriting contests

How do I find a screenwriting contest?

We have a list of screenwriting contests broken down by type of prize here: Screenwriting Contest Calendar Dates and Prizes Visit the page and determine the timetable throughout the year of screenwriting contests as well as the prize given for each. Not every contest is best for every writer. Determine which type of contest is best for your project. Please make certain to read the submission and eligibility requirements carefully and follow their guidelines and filing dates to the letter. Making a mistake in the submission process will most likely render your screenplay eliminated.

What do I get if I win a writing contest?

Every screenwriting contest has a different set of prizes, but beyond cash, you can make significant contacts that could lead you to your ultimate goal of selling your scripts. The typical screenwriting contest prize includes money as well as meetings with executives in Hollywood. Those meetings are an opportunity to not only sell your script, but to also sell yourself as a writer for hire and obtain representation.

Another “award” is simply using the writing contest deadlines as motivation to finish your scripts!

Some writing contest prizes are the following:

  • cash prizes
  • promotion and publicity in the press
  • mentorship with a professional to improve your writing
  • screenplay notes on your contest entry (sometimes also available for an extra fee for any submission, not just the ones that place)
  • direct connections and/or in-person meetings with influential industry
  • professionals (such as agents, managers, producers)

What if I’m a finalist in a screenwriting competition but don’t win? Was it all a waste of time?

Winning a screenwriting contest isn’t the only way to find success. Industry professionals are usually judges for the upper-level contests. Entering your script into a writing contest may be your best chance of having it read by a person in a position to help get it sold. Some screenwriting agents and managers are contest judges simply as a way of finding undiscovered talent and a new writer’s fresh voice. You never know what can happen if your script gets in the right judge’s hands.

For example, if you’re a quarterfinalist for the Academy Nicholl Fellowship, after the contest results are posted, your inbox could be flooded with management and production companies asking for your script’s logline and those of any other scripts you’ve written. Instead of having to send out queries, the queries are coming to you. The farther your script advances in a contest, the more requests you’ll potentially receive.

What can winning a smaller screenwriting contest do for my career?

Mario O. Moreno, Story Specialist at The Writers Store explains:
“One example of what a contest can do for you is the story of Tyler Marceca who I coached during the third run of the Industry Insider Contest for The Writers Store. Based on winning the contest and the feedback we provided, Tyler felt confident enough to submit his script The Disciple Program to the popular Script Shadow blog. The script was reviewed by blog host Carson Reeves as part of the site’s amateur Friday and became the first amateur script to ever break the blog’s top twenty list, landing in the top five, which generated a buzz all over the industry. Tyler was able to parlay that buzz into representation from Anonymous Content and William Morris Endeavor, and the script was bought by Universal after Mark Wahlberg became attached.”

How do I prepare my screenplay for success at a screenwriting contest?

Choose the right screenwriting contest for your material, and get as much feedback from trusted sources as possible before making the investment of submitting to any writing contests. If your script isn’t ready, you’re simply throwing your money away.

One way to gain feedback is the Story Development Notes service at The Writers Store. It will give you an idea of what an experienced reader has to say about your script in terms of strengths and weaknesses and will provide creative options for raising the material to the next level.

Sometimes the best value of a screenwriting contest isn’t the cash but the validation of knowing where you stand in the pack of thousands of writers. If you can consistently place in the quarterfinals or finalists, you know your writing is on track for success.

As in any contest, have realistic expectations and celebrate the courage it takes to put your work up against the work of other screenwriters. The first step to success is believing in yourself. Now it’s time to see if others believe in you too.

Don’t know your screenplay is ready for a screenwriting contest? Get our FREE How to Improve Your Odds of Winning a Screenplay Contest Download today!


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