The Pros, Cons, and Tips about Screenplay Competitions

Whether your goal is to sell your script to Hollywood or to have your work considered for production by an independent film company, getting your screenplay read and into the right hands is just one step of the journey to seeing your vision on the silver screen.  There is no right or wrong way to embark on this voyage — it all depends on you as a writer (your style, your voice), your screenplay, perseverance and luck.  What is an absolute — and there are no shortcuts to this — you must only submit your screenplay when it is absolutely the best it can be.  Submitting a draft that is not truly ready to be considered is a sure way to get rejected.

Winning or placing as a finalist in a screenplay competition is a good way to open the doors to the film industry.  Getting your writing recognized and drawing attention to you as a writer is imperative in this highly competitive field.  However — you must be realistic and examine the pros and cons of what you are (literally) about to enter. Some contest winners receive interest from the film industry, which has helped them to launch their careers, while others receive little or no attention from winning.  Sometimes it is just the luck of the draw, but you can take some control into your own hands.

There are hundreds of script competitions — and it seems more and more each day — that offer a variety of enticements to attract screenwriters.

Be discriminating and do your research:

·      Submit to a contest that is respected by the industry and has been around for several years. The more established the contest, the more attention you’ll get if you win or place as a finalist.

·      Reputable script competitions must have judges who work in the film industry otherwise there is no point in entering.

·      Find out what types of prizes the contests are offering and make sure these are legitimate. These offerings can include agent representation, meetings with film industry folks, announcements in the trades, and prize money.

In my experience as a screenplay competition judge and when I interviewed colleagues for my books (The Savvy Screenwriter and Savvy Characters Sell Screenplays!), the consensus is that judges are not necessarily looking for scripts that have the potential to be blockbusters or even have commercial appeal; they are looking for the best written screenplay. Specifically, judges look for scripts that are well-crafted and attention-grabbing, demonstrate a strong and unique voice and writing style, and a screenplay without formatting errors, typos, or grammatical mistakes.


1.     Always register your screenplay with the Writers Guild of America before submitting it to a contest.

2.     Submit to contests that are the right fit for your project, such as. genre and subject matter.

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