Want some tips on how to choose screenwriting competitions that actually help your career? Of course you do! Here are four things to look for that can help you suss out the best competitions for your script (and how to avoid the worthless ones):
1. Industry Connections
This is the most important thing to look for in a screenplay competition. Yes, prize money is always helpful, and yes, statuettes with your name on them look amazing on your mantel, but in the end, it’s the industry connections that matter most. When evaluating a contest, look to see who will be reading your script if you win or place. Hopefully well-connected producers, execs, managers, and/or agents who can help move your career forward! If not, then, as warm and fuzzy as accolades make you feel, it’s probably not worth your time to enter, especially if there’s a submission fee. You need the eyes of Hollywood pros on your work, so entering the “New-Just-Started-Try-Us Screenplay Competition” probably won’t increase your chances of success. Submit to competitions that introduce you to industry professionals and champion your script if you win. Do some Googling about each contest and its judges to see if you can find more information on them.
2. Helpful Feedback
Entering many screenwriting competitions feels like you’re sending your script into the ether, with no clue how readers will respond. If you don’t advance, you often have no idea why, or what you can do to improve your material going forward. To help alleviate this, some competitions go the extra mile and offer feedback from your readers (either for free or for an extra charge). Be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to see how the competitions’ readers are reacting to your script! If you get the same notes repeatedly from different readers, there may be pressing issues that you can fix so your script fares better in the future. Professional feedback from experienced readers can help you grow and evolve as a screenwriter. Definitely worth the entry fee.
3. Money and Prizes
Let’s be honest: most aspiring screenwriters aren’t exactly raking in the big bucks quite yet. So money and prizes can provide a boost that can help keep the lights on and keep you clacking away at your keyboard. Some contests offer cash prizes, while others offer gifts such as screenwriting software, mentorships with industry pros, and consultations with screenwriting experts. If a contest can provide cash and/or resources to further your career, then it’s definitely a good one to consider.
4. (Recent) Success Stories
A screenwriting competition is really only as good as its track record. Have winners in the past been read and repped? Have any projects been set up as a result of introductions from the contest? Have any writers been staffed or hired, or had their work sold or optioned? And… have any of these happened in the recent past? If a competition’s most recent success story is from 1993, then it’s probably not your best bet. Choose competitions that have current connections and can provide opportunities for you now.
Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to do your research and submit your scripts! Strapped on time? Coverfly thoroughly vets screenwriting competitions to help you select those that are truly worth your while. You can search by genre (television, feature, web series, short film, etc.) as well as look through top-rated contests and those with upcoming deadlines. It’s hard enough to find time to write, so why not have your competition research already done for you?
Rebecca Norris is a producer, writer, and filmmaker with her production company, Freebird Entertainment. Her recent award-winning feature film, Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine, has been distributed on Amazon Streaming and DVD. Rebecca is also a script analyst and consultant who has read for many companies, including Sundance, ScreenCraft, Bluecat, and the International Emmys, as well as her own script consultancy, Script Authority. Rebecca blogs for Screencraft, The Script Lab, WeScreenplay and Script Magazine, exploring the film writing and production process and encouraging writers to produce their own work. Follow Rebecca’s posts on Twitter at @beckaroohoo!