It’s no secret that the right screenwriting competition can help advance a writer’s career. But with so many competitions in existence, trying to determine which competitions are worth your time and money to enter can be overwhelming to say the least (that’s why I wrote a whole book about it!).
Each competition is different, but so is each script and each writer. Competitions look for different qualities in scripts and offer different types of awards and prizes. And writers have different objectives that they hope winning the competition will help them achieve (representation, mentorship, employment, or simply an idea of where their script ranks).
So, while I can’t tell you which competitions are right for you and your script, I can look at some of the top competitions and point out a few key aspects that might help jumpstart and refine your own competition research.
So, in reverse alphabetical order:
Finding ways to benefit from screenwriting competitions (other than winning) is one of the main reasons I wrote my book Screenplay Competitions. And, while the WeScreenplay contest wasn’t around when I started entering competitions (and after that I was working on my book), I find a lot about WeScreenplay that I like, especially for writers looking to get the most out of their entry.
WeScreenplay currently offers four contests: Feature, Television Pilot, Shorts, and Diverse Voices. Entrants in each competition will receive (at no additional charge) at least one page of written feedback from their first-round judge. Even better? Entrants have the option to purchase feedback from every subsequent judge who reads their script.
Moreover, if you have a Coverfly account, WeScreenplay provides entrants with every score their scripts receive until the final round of judging. These scores are broken down per judging criteria. And, since seeing your per-criteria scores from multiple individuals is one of the easiest ways to discover which elements of your script and writing excel (and which still need work), when you combine the scores with the written feedback, WeScreenplay entrants receive a lot of information in return for their entry fee — whether they win or not.
Because I haven’t written a teleplay, this is the only competition of these six that I haven’t entered. That said, it’s not tough to see that the Disney Program is unique in a myriad of ways. For starters, writers in the Program actually become paid employees of Walt Disney Television.
The primary goal of the Program is to get writers staffed on a Walt Disney Television series. And while staffing is not guaranteed, the Program also offers writers opportunities to participate in workshops, attend meetings and events, and make connections with executives, producers, and literary representatives.
You’ll have to be ready, willing, and able to commit to the Program since it lasts a year and you must live in L.A. to participate.
But here’s an extra bonus: there’s no fee to enter.
ScreenCraft is unique in that they offer separate competitions for separate genres/formats. This means that, from first-round to final-round, your script is only competing against other scripts in your genre/format, and is only being evaluated by judges selected specifically for that genre/format.
ScreenCraft also offers competitions for genres/categories that aren’t usually delineated in many other competitions’ entry categories. For example, ScreenCraft offers a competition specifically for animation screenplays, and a separate competition specifically for family screenplays. Moreover, if you’ve written a novel or short story that has cinematic appeal, ScreenCraft even offers competitions for that.
Whereas a competition like Nicholl judges all entries against each other, PAGE selects Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners in seven feature genre categories, two teleplay categories, and one short category. So, even though PAGE selects only one Grand Prize Winner (selected from any genre/format), the Gold, Silver, and Bronze awards ensure that the top-ranking scripts in each genre/format still receive recognition.
Also worth noting: PAGE offers (for a fee) one of the most detailed forms of critiques written by your script’s competition judge. This multi-page critique includes criteria-specific scores and corresponding evaluation. So, not only will you find out exactly how your first-round judge scored your script, you’ll also find out why.
BlueCat provides a critique to every entrant (also at no additional fee). Typically, you’ll receive the critique within two months of your entry (a fairly quick turn-around when it comes to competition-related critiques). This is especially important since BlueCat allows writers to submit revised versions of their scripts within the same competition year. So, if you enter BlueCat early enough, you could receive your critique, make some changes to your script, and submit the revised version — all in the same competition year.
A note to young screenwriters: Many competitions require entrants to be over the age of 18 or 21 to submit. BlueCat, however, accepts entries from writers of any age.
Austin Film Festival (AFF) is known for being very supportive of writers. So, it’s no surprise that AFF offers reader comments to every script entered in their Screenplay & Teleplay competition — at no additional cost. Even if you don’t advance, you’ll still walk away with something in return for your entry fee.
But, if you do advance in the competition, AFF offers some great opportunities at their annual Writers Conference. Depending on your level of advancement, semifinalists and above receive discounts on conference passes, travel, and/or lodging, and are given access to exclusive panels.
AFF also offers a myriad of competitions beyond the standard feature and teleplay categories, including competitions for digital series scripts, playwriting, fiction podcasts, and pitch competitions.
Nicholl is widely recognized as one of the most respected screenwriting competitions. It is very competitive, with their quarterfinals representing a slim 5% of entries. However, this means that winning (or even just placing) is not only a massive feather in one’s cap, but doing so quite often generates industry interest in the writer.
Nicholl requires every script to be evaluated by two judges before determining initial advancement. And Nicholl provides every entrant with an approximation how their script ranked. So, whether you advance or not, for the cost of one entry fee, you’ll learn how your script was received by at least two judges.
Just because a competition is referenced above does not mean you should enter that competition. Nor does it mean that these are the only competitions worth entering. It simply means these competitions are a good place to begin your competition research.
And do research. Always read a competition’s rules, eligibility requirements, terms and conditions, privacy policies, awards, prizes, judging criteria, etc. so that you not only have the most current information, but so that you understand what you are agreeing to by entering.
Ann Marie Williams is the author of Screenplay Competitions: Tools and Insights to Help You Choose the Best Screenwriting Contests for You and Your Script. Learn more at https://annmwilliams.com