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By Admin · January 31, 2020
It can feel like a longshot when submitting to screenwriting competitions, especially if you live outside of a major film city like Los Angeles. That said, many competitions have launched the careers of professional screenwriters, and this blog post is an exploration of some of the organizations that can truly make a difference.
And when the results come in it is important to remember one thing — these contests aren’t about winning. Wait— What? Sure, it would be great to win the grand prize (some of them are really great), but the real reason to enter your screenplay into competitions is to open doors and build a reputation for yourself as a writer to be reckoned with.
Many competition finalists are read by some of the industry’s top development executives, literary managers, agents, screenwriters, and producers in the business. The juries are often panels of professionals regarded as leaders of the industry. All it takes is one person to believe in your work.
Below is a list of some of the industry’s best writing contests with verified track records when it comes to helping writers reach the next stage of their careers.
Coverfly makes it easy to access dozens of the industry’s top screenwriting competitions, which are carefully curated and conveniently found in one place. Coverfly is the industry’s largest database of screenwriting competition entries, searchable by industry pros who are looking for that next great screenplay. Full disclosure: Coverfly is owned by the parent company of The Script Lab.
Over 100 screenwriters have found management through Coverfly-qualifying screenwriting competitions, fellowships, labs and festivals within the past several months. You can read dozens of testimonials here.
Coverfly also offers great incentives to host your scripts for free in a database database that is searchable by industry professionals who are looking for rising talent. For no extra charge, Coverfly can keep track of the progress and scores of your scripts. Coverfly aggregates scores from competitions and runs them through a proprietary algorithm to calculate the project’s Coverfly Score. Many writers have gained representation by getting noticed by placing on The Red List. Industry professionals can easily see how many accolades your script has garnered. The more heat your script is making, the better.
Also, writers can apply for talent-discovery programs such as Pitch Week, Live Reads, Peer Script Exchange, Open Writing Assignments, and a Fee Waiver Program. There are plenty of opportunities offered for free because Coverfly is made to facilitate screenwriters in reaching the next level.
ScreenCraft has quickly become one of the most sought-after organizations of writing competitions out there by, “uniquely tailoring the prizes, jury and readers to a specific genre or format, such as comedy, drama, horror, action, sci-fi, family-friendly, short, and TV.” Full disclosure: ScreenCraft is owned by the parent company of The Script Lab.
With a 90% success rate in helping winners sign with professional representation (at top agencies and management companies in Hollywood), the ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship has developed the reputation of laying the foundations for the successful careers of the next generation of great Hollywood writers. Last year, every Fellow went on to gain representation. The fellowship’s track record is like no other.
Up to four (4) winners receive:
Airfare and Lodging
The key to ScreenCraft’s success is their devotion to the writers who place in their competitions long after the winners are announced. The team at ScreenCraft are known to work with writers to help develop their careers.
Need more inspiration? Check out ScreenCraft’s success stories.
One of the best-kept secrets in the industry is the phenomenal awards ceremony that HUMANITAS puts on each year for the industry’s screenwriters. Not only is this writing competition Coverfly-qualifying, it has a smaller number of applicants, so your odds of winning are a bit better than some of the industry’s other top talent-discovery programs.
Every year, HUMANITAS NEW VOICES selects up to six writers through a rigorous selection process. Candidates are asked to submit a script and participate in personal interviews. Once matched with an industry mentor, the writers have three months to further develop their script under their mentors’ supervision. After the script is honed, HUMANITAS sends it to a partnering studio or network executive. The winning writers are given recognition at the annual awards ceremony (which is a stunning star-studded event) and are awarded with a $7,500 writing grant.
The team at HUMANITAS are looking for well-written scripts with compelling stories and developed characters. Any genre is accepted as a 30-minute pilot, 60-minute pilot, or feature film screenplay. We accept only one application and script per year. To be eligible a TV writer can have experience up to and including “Executive Story Editor”, and feature writers cannot have earned more than $25,000 writing fictional work for film. Learn more about New Voices here.
Launch Pad has one of the most impressive track records of helping its winners and finalists. The competition truly goes above and beyond to advocate for all of their finalists, from the Top 75 all the way to the winners. They work tirelessly to get your work into the hands of the biggest agencies, management companies, and production companies to showcase you and your writing. Full disclosure: Launch Pad is partially owned by the same parent company as The Script Lab.
They have industry-leading partnerships, giving writers even more opportunities to take their writing careers to the next level.
To date, Launch Pad has facilitated: 452 Writers Signed — 164 Projects Set Up — 68 Writers Staffed — 7 Bidding Wars
Includes Guaranteed Option and Signing Prizes. Believe the hype. This competition is a true launch pad for talented emerging writers.
Have a script to submit? Enter Launch Pad Here.
The divisions of Pipeline Media Group seek to find exceptional talent for film and television by continuously pursuing bold, unique voices. Established in 1999 as “Script Pipeline Into Motion Pictures,” a forerunner in screenplay coverage and the distinct hands-on process of connecting writers worldwide to Hollywood, the company has since branched out to consider literary and produced content.
Script Pipeline discovers and develops writers for film and television, connecting them to producers, agents, and managers. Since 1999, several produced films and over $7 million in screenplay and TV pilot spec sales are credited to Script Pipeline’s unique, intensive process of long-term writer-to-industry facilitation.
A number of original feature and TV projects are in various stages of development, and over 150 writers have found representation, had their scripts optioned and produced, and seen their careers launched as a result of facilitation. With a constantly expanding industry network, Script Pipeline searches for new material on a daily basis–and reviewed over 17,000 screenplays, pilots, and original pitches in 2019.
Finalists receive circulation to Script Pipeline partners, in addition to the following:
For over twenty-five years, Austin Film Festival has been changing the lives of aspiring writers. AFF is one of the most noteworthy competitions that supports budding young writers and helps bridge the gap into the world of film and television.
AFF is one of the most respected screenplay competitions because of the emphasis they place on the writer. Every entrant receives reader notes and the festival treats each writer with a personal touch. Great panels, discussions, an emphasis on the importance of the writer, and incentives for Second Rounders and up makes this contest worth the price tag.
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you the Nicholl Fellowship is the most prestigious on this list. And it’s Coverfly-qualifying to boot. That said, if you’re a TV writer or if you have a short script, this competition might not be the best place for you, since it only accepts feature film screenplays. The annual fellowship’s renowned honor brings with it the largest pool of entrants. It’s difficult to place for a reason, but placing in the top 20% or higher is a distinction recognized by the industry and will help boost your Coverfly score when you sync your accounts.
Each year, the Academy Nicholl Screenwriting Competition awards up to five $35,000 fellowships to amateur screenwriters. From the program’s inception in 1986 through 2019, $4.58 million has been awarded to 176 writers.
Read the list of notable Nicholl Fellows here.
The PAGE International Screenwriting Awards competition was founded in the fall of 2003. Their goal? To discover the most exciting new scripts by up-and-coming writers from across the country and around the world. Due to the success of their winning writers, the PAGE Awards contest has become one of the industry’s most respected sources for new screenwriting talent.
One grand prize winner receives $25,000 cash, a Nostos screenwriting retreat in Tuscany, as well as promotional packages and gift certificates.
The Judges also present Gold, Silver, and Bronze Prizes in each of their genre categories: Action/Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Family, Historical, Science Fiction, Thriller/Horror.
There are many success stories born from the PAGE Awards. Read More.
HollyShorts Film Festival is an annual, Academy-Award-qualifying short film festival showcasing the best and brightest short films and short screenplays from around the world.
The first place short screenplay gets produced by their production company sponsor Seattle Film Summit and receives $10,000 cash.
All semi-finalists will be announced and invited to the festival with an all-access pass.
Over $20k in prizes is up for grabs in their Feature Screenplay Contest. Winning feature scripts are read by their award-winning judges. The top feature scripts are read by a roster of over 120 production companies, agents, managers, and directors.
One grand prize winner receives:
Seven 1st place genre winners each receive $1,000 cash and every bullet point listed above except for the film festival pass.
Every writer who enters receives a free booklet on how to get your screenplay produced.
Shore Scripts has helped launch the careers of over 60 writers through their feature contest, including dealing with Sony, Blumhouse, Warner Bros., & Hulu.
The Diverse Voices Competition and Lab promotes new voices in Hollywood by encouraging stories from perspectives that are often underrepresented in the industry today. This includes writers of color, female writers, writers with disabilities, writers over 40, writers in the LGBTQ+ community, and any other voices and stories that are currently underrepresented in Hollywood. Full disclosure: WeScreenplay is owned by the parent company of The Script Lab.
The chosen applicants are flown to Los Angeles and put up in an iconic LA Hotel for a Diverse Voices Four-Day Screenwriting Lab. The Lab will include hands-on development with industry executives, WeScreenplay staff, writers, and each other. It’ll also include meetings with executives and managers about the writers, their career, and their projects in development.
Past winners have signed at Gotham Group, Heroes and Villains, and Industry Entertainment. Check out more successes here.
Also, the WeScreenplay Feature Competition provides every entry with written feedback from its first-round judge. WeScreenplay competitions are focused on helping writers improve their craft and providing screenwriters exposure to take the next step in their careers.
The 2020 Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competition is devoted to finding the best screenplays from around the world and offering writers the opportunity to take part in a writing workshop and with mentorship from professionals in the film industry.
Three winners will be chosen in the feature film category. These winners will receive:
Have a script ready to enter? Head over to Coverfly and enter the Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competition.
The Slamdance Screenplay Competition is dedicated to discovering and supporting emerging writing talent. They welcome screenplays in every genre, on any topic, from anywhere in the world. They are looking for work that is truly compelling and stories that are truly unique.
Slamdance has continued to build on its reputation of showcasing top emerging talent.
Are you a student who needs help with paying for school? Then you need to submit to this competition.
The LAUNCH Million Dollar Screenplay Competition is a first-of-its-kind competition co-founded by Zachary Green and Jason Shuman and philanthropists Chuck and Marni Bond, to find the next generation of great screenwriters from around the world.
The LAUNCH is awarding $100,000 in education grants, with the grand prize winner having his or her screenplay produced as a feature film with a budget of approximately $1 million.
Every student is encouraged to take advantage of this unique opportunity.
Past winners have won Emmys, been signed by agents or managers, and had their scripts optioned and produced. Scriptapalooza will promote, pitch, and push the semifinalists and higher for a full year.
This year they are awarding over $50,000 in cash and software prizes. The first-place winner will receive $10,000 Cash and all genre winners will receive $500 Cash.
Roadmap Writers is a screenwriting education and training platform for writers looking for guidance. Their programs are hosted by working industry executives and are designed to empower writers with actionable tools and insights to elevate their craft and cultivate relationships with industry professionals.
Roadmap is currently offering a monthly DIVERSITY INITIATIVE and entry is free.
Since 2016, they have helped more than 100 writers sign with representation, and countless others get staffed, optioned, or sell their script.
The Big Break Screenwriting Contest offers film and TV writers in 11 genres the chance to win up to $100,000 in cash and prizes. Grand prize winners are also flown to Los Angeles to meet with managers, producers, and executives.
Awards and Prizes:
Screenwriting competitions definitely have a strong element of subjectivity. There’s an element of luck involved with your specific screenplay resonating with a specific judge. Sometimes it connects with a reader, sometimes it doesn’t. After years of sending your work out into the void and only getting silence — you finally hear back. An email. A phone call. An introduction. A handshake. I read your script and…
That’s what it’s all about. The important thing is that you keep writing and keep getting your work out there.
Kevin Nelson is a writer and director based in New York City, baby. He has written and produced critically acclaimed short films and music videos with incredibly talented artists, worked with anti-human trafficking organizations, and would rather be in nature right now. See more madness on Instagram or follow his work on https://www.kevinpatricknelson