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By Michael Lee · May 29, 2019
It can be hard to break into the competitive industry that is Hollywood screenwriting. One of the ways that writers from many diverse backgrounds and places can gain early career traction is through online screenwriting competitions. The following competitions have directly launched many emerging writers into paid writing jobs, formal option contracts and meetings with studio executives, agents and managers. If you’re an aspiring writer looking for a big break, you should know that it’s not about just entering any competition — it’s about entering the right ones.
To illustrate this point, below are some of the best screenwriting competitions, and the impressive careers they’ve launched.
Winning at HUMANITAS could offer you the opportunity to be mentored by professionals from CBS, NBC, HBO, ABC, Amazon, Lionsgate, Warner Bros., and 21st Century Fox, not to mention $7,500 to put into your idea! Their goal is to discover, develop, and launch a new generation of talented writers into the screenwriting industry. Winners are mentored for three months before HUMANITAS sends their script out to a partnering studio. Whether it be a TV pilot or a feature screenplay – submit, submit, submit!
One of their past winners, Martin Zimmerman, has gone on to become an Executive Producer and Showrunner on Netflix’s Spanish language series, Puerta 7, and a Producer on Netflix’s Ozark. While he was working with HUMANITAS, he was mentored by Oscar-winning screenwriter Alan Ball (AMERICAN BEAUTY, SIX FEET UNDER).
For more success stories from HUMANITAS New Voices, click here.
Follow HUMANITAS on Twitter to stay up to date with their success stories.
ScreenCraft is one of the fastest growing screenwriting competitions resource in the industry, and no matter what the genre or style of your screenplay, ScreenCraft likely has a competition for you! Competitions are genre specific, coming with the benefit that each genre has its own judges, prizes, and mentorships programs. Just last year, ScreenCraft awarded over $100,000 in prizes. Past winners have sold projects or signed with the industry’s top agencies. Dream big!
Kaycee Hughes is a recent ScreenCraft success story. After winning a 2018 ScreenCraft Competition, she signed with Abrams Artists Agency. Hughes reflects, “Winning ScreenCraft’s Pilot Launch Competition cracked open the floodgates, and within weeks, I had multiple meetings lined up not only with some incredible literary managers and agents but with networks eager to chat about my winning pilot as well.”
Rich Van Tine, a Top 5 Finalist in the 2018 ScreenCraft Action/Thriller Screenplay Competition, has also reached success after the help of ScreenCraft. Rich Van Tine signed with literary manager Jon Hersh of Housefire Management, and he reflects: “I can’t thank ScreenCraft enough for championing me as a writer. They kept pushing [my] script forward and were super involved in the entire process. It was a great experience and I highly recommend any and all ScreenCraft competitions. Thank you to the whole ScreenCraft team.”
Anna Klassen was the winner of the 2017 ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship and subsequently signed with her manager at Plattform and with an agent at WME, her screenplay was recently voted onto The Black List! She was hired by Netflix to write a big budget film adaptation at WGA scale!
For more success stories from ScreenCraft, click here.
As one of the most popular screenwriting competition brands in the world, it’s a big deal to win an award at Script Pipeline. They have a wide range of competitions that feature different creative formats and consider movie ideas in various stages of development in their Great Idea contest. Contest finalists work with Script Pipeline executives to receive one-on-one development assistance, connections to producers, agents, and management.
A recent success story enabled by Script Pipeline involves one of their contest winners, Tripper Clancy. His success was paved by Script Pipeline’s executives who set him up with advice and management. Clancy wrote Stuber, an action-comedy picked up by Fox that stars Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani. “Stuber” is set to air in July 2019. Clancy is now writing a film for Amazon and adapting a novel into a screenplay.
Another success story comes with Howard Jordan Jr., who was a runner up in a Script Pipeline 2015 competition. In 2017, he was staffed on a CBS sitcom series Superior Donuts. You can watch his first solo written episode, Sofia’s Choice, which aired in February 2018. Of his abrupt success, Jordan notes, “It wasn’t about entering competitions, it was about entering the right competitions… Script Pipeline was the turning point.”
For more success stories from Script Pipeline, click here.
If you’re interested in entering a competition that provides free feedback with every entry, consider WeScreenplay. Best known for their screenplay review service, they also run four annual screenwriting competitions. Their biggest semi-annual program is called the Diverse Voices Lab, which works to champion stories from writers with backgrounds under-represented in Hollywood. WeScreenplay competition finalists have gone on to sign with top literary managers, among many other pursuits.
2017’s Diverse Voices finalist, Amanda Bermudez, was promptly connected to a literary manager at Gotham Group. She has since signed with Gotham and has been working on feature and television projects.
Another Diverse Voices success story is that of Leon Chills, who was 2016’s Spring feature winner. He has since received a staff writing job on a Netflix show and has also signed with a literary manager at Heroes and Villains.
For more success stories from WeScreenplay, click here.
PAGE describes their goal as, “To discover the most exciting new scripts by up-and-coming writers from across the country and around the world.” Since their founding in 2003, 153 of their finalists have optioned their script, 151 have signed with reps, 118 have been hired to write, and 112 individuals have had their work produced.
Davah Avena, a winner from Los Angeles, California, notes, “A few weeks after the PAGE Awards were announced, I was signed by the Kaplan, Stahler, Gumer, Braun Agency, and in October I started work as a writer’s assistant on the ABC Family show Kyle XY. You guys are such a class act.”
Scott Parisien, another PAGE International award winner, contacted PAGE after his big win to say; “The reaction to the press release was huge. I had 21 requests and 3 offers of option… The script would not be where it is if not for you and your contest. Thank you!”
For more success stories from The PAGE International Screenwriting Awards, click here.
The Tracking Board’s Launch Pad Competitions are some of the most successful writing competition for emerging writers in the world; 403 signings, 143 projects set up, 134 appearances on annual best of lists such as the Black List, as well as 6 bidding wars. The Launch Pad’s winning writers have accomplished these successes since The Launch Pad’s writing competitions began only 6 years ago! There’s a pretty good chance that if you succeed in a competition like this, Hollywood will discover your talent.
Eric Koenig’s script, Matriarch, made the top 10 finalist script in 2014’s Launch Pad Feature Competition. Since, he has sold a spec script for mid six figures to Paramount Pictures, and Koenig’s representatives first noticed him from the 2014 competition.
Ahmadu Garba placed in the Top 5% of both the Pilots and Features Competitions in 2015 with The Eleventh Hour and Augustus respectively. He has since signed with Epicenter and was then chosen for the 2016 FOX Writers Intensive Program.
For more success stories from The Tracking Board’s Launch Pad Competitions, click here.
The Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting is the most prestigious award an emerging writer can receive. A competition only for feature film screenplays, winners of the Academy Nicholl Fellowships have gone on to write some of the most beloved scripts in feature film entertainment. Additionally, the award comes with a $30,000 grand prize!
A success story comes in the recently released film, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, written by Michael Werwie from his Nicholl Fellowship-winning script. Starring Zac Efron and Lily Collins, Extremely Wicked is a drama based on the true story of the conviction of infamous serial killer Ted Bundy.
Elizabeth Chomko was 2015’s fellow, and it’s pretty impressive to note that not only did her winning script, What They Had, go on to be produced and star Hilary Swank, but she also directed the film!
For more success stories from Academy Nicholl Fellowship, click here.
Final Draft has been running its screenwriting contest for 20 years, each year honoring 11 category winners and 2 grand prize winners. Fifty past winners have gone on to sell scripts and/or reach other success in the feature film business. Prizes include a trip to Hollywood and $10,000.
Greta Heinemann was 2017’s Big Break winner, and since her big win she has signed with the production company Bellevue Productions and is currently shopping her script Anatomy of a Breakdown.
For more success stories from Final Draft’s Big Break Screenwriting Contest, click here.
Stowe Story Labs is most well known for its labs and workshops for emerging writers. Their programs guide screenwriters, filmmakers, and creative producers through workshops and mentoring to help prepare and connect them.
Melody Cooper is one of Stowe Story Lab’s success stories. She was selected for a month-long writer’s residency by the La Napoule Foundation in Cote D’Azur, France in the Spring 2018 and is currently rewriting and directing a feature for Tandem Pictures.
For more success stories from Stowe Story Labs, click here.
To win at an Austin Film Festival competition gives you bragging rights for life. Austin Film Festival has been running for over 25 years and is the epitome of a fantastic, prestigious film festival. The Screenwriting Competition is a subset of the film festival itself. As the most prestigious film festival for screenwriters of all abilities and in all stages in their career, if you’re a novice and win at Austin, you are destined to get picked up by the industry.
As 2016 sitcom pilot award winner, Louise Rozett notes, “As a result of winning at Austin, I’ve had some great meetings here in LA. The industry really respects AFF’s judgment, and takes note of people who advance in the competition.”
After winning at AFF, I left my day job to pursue writing full-time! Since then, I’ve met some great people and hopefully will be able to take the next step as a working professional in the new year.” – Kyle McLellan Bugg, 2016 AMC One-Hour Pilot Award Winner for The Devil and The Deep
For more stories from Austin Film Festival’s Screenwriting Competition, click here.
It is no small statement that the winning scripts of the Shore Scripts Screenwriting Competition will be read by 37 judges who have won awards ranging from Oscars and Baftas to Emmys, Golden Globes, & Cannes awards. Shore Scripts hosts both feature and TV pilot competitions.
Their most boasted success story is that of Louis Ackerman’s, who Shore Scripts helped set up with Blumhouse Entertainment to have his winning script produced. The film is part of Hulu’s Into the Dark series, released in Nov 2018.
Another success story is Ben Cleary, who went on from winning Shore Script’s short award to winning 2016’s Best Live Short Film Oscar. Cleary reflects, “Being a winner was very exciting. In the months following the announcement I [was] approached by numerous directors who are interested in scripts of mine.
For more success stories from Shore Scripts, click here.
The CineStory competition is unique in that it comes with a writer’s retreat that takes place over four days in the beautiful mountains of Idyllwild, California. The retreat comes with three 90-minute one-on-one sessions with working Hollywood agents, managers, producers, and development executives, open access to 15+ hours of small group sessions covering creative and business topics, and film screenings as well as other events. All semifinalists and finalists are invited on the retreat, but the grand prize winner enjoys $10,000, free tuition, and a 12-month mentorship program where they will work with 2 Hollywood professionals to help them advance their craft and career.
Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby are arguably Cinestory’s biggest success stories. Their Cinestory winning script, First Snow was produced and released in 2007, starring Guy Pearce, and Fergus directed. In 2006, they received an Academy Award nomination for Children of Men. Since, they have worked on films such as Cowboys and Aliens and Iron Man.
For more success stories from CineStory, click here.
Do you have any great screenwriting competition success stories? Please let us know and we’ll update this post. Email us: help – @ – thescriptlab.com
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