Screenwriting contests can be an excellent way for aspiring writers to gain recognition, network with industry professionals, and advance their careers. However, with so many contests out there, it can be difficult to determine which ones are worth the time, effort, and entry fees.
Also, a lot of them are scams run by companies to make money, with no interest in advancing careers and no real connections to Hollywood.
In this article, we will explore some of the most reputable and prestigious screenwriting contests, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of entering these competitions.
These are the contests I think are okay!
It’s my opinion. You can disagree, but I think most contests are scams built on the hope machine. And I hate that.
So, let’s get into some screenwriting competitions that are worth entering and that I think are safe. Please email me if you think any of these are scams or if there are better screenwriting contests out there that are not mentioned below.
Let’s dive in.
‘Zodiac’Credit: Paramount Pictures
First, More On Scams!
Yes, unfortunately, some screenwriting contests can be scams.
Some companies may advertise false promises of fame and fortune, charge high entry fees without providing legitimate opportunities for writers, or fail to deliver on their promises of industry exposure.
It is important to do your research and thoroughly investigate any screenwriting contest before entering, to ensure that it is reputable and worth your time and money. Look for reviews, industry forums, and track records of success.
Additionally, be wary of any contest that asks for a large upfront fee, promises unrealistic results, or uses high-pressure sales tactics. By being cautious and informed, you can protect yourself from potential scams and find legitimate opportunities to advance your screenwriting career.
I hate that Hollywood has some of these barriers to entry that people exploit for money.
The contests below are ones I’ll vouch for right now.
Which Screenwriting Competitions Are Worth Entering?
There are many screenwriting contests out there, and it can be challenging to determine which ones are worth entering. Here are a few reputable contests that you might consider:
- Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting: This is the name above all other names. People want to read scripts that do well in this contest. The Nicholl Fellowships are run by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and are widely considered to be one of the most prestigious screenwriting competitions. The fellowship awards up to five $35,000 prizes each year to aspiring screenwriters.
- Austin Film Festival Screenplay & Teleplay Competition: A few years ago, there was a lot of talk about their readers not being paid and the feedback they gave being trash. I think they’ve taken steps since then. It was hard to recommend this one due to all that, but I still know people who enter and win this one have success. The Austin Film Festival is another well-regarded contest in the industry. The competition includes categories for film, TV, and digital series, and winning scripts often go on to be produced and distributed.
- Sundance Screenwriters Lab: While not technically a contest, the Sundance Screenwriters Lab is an exclusive and highly sought-after program that selects a small group of promising writers each year to participate in a week-long writing workshop with industry professionals. It’s a really amazing program with a ton of success stories. Really support this one.
- PAGE International Screenwriting Awards: PAGE (Page International Screenwriting Awards) is a well-known competition that has launched the careers of many successful writers. It accepts screenplays in several different categories, including feature film, TV pilot, and short film. They have a lot of testimonials of working writers. I think it also feels like it comes up in conversations with execs who know about it.
- Scriptapalooza Screenplay & TV Script Competition: I went back and forth when it came to including this one. I think because the entry fee is low, it might be worth it? I chatted with a few pals who loved it, so I am relying more on them here. Scriptapalooza is a well-respected screenwriting competition that accepts entries in multiple categories, including feature film, TV, and stage play. The grand prize winner receives $10,000, and other cash prizes are also awarded.
- Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest: I actually entered this one, and was a finalist in the early 2010s. I have a friend who I think was a winner or part of the Top 3 and she is doing great. Anyway, I like this one. The Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest is open to both aspiring and professional screenwriters, and it awards over $80,000 in cash and prizes each year. The contest includes categories for feature film, TV pilot, and short film.
- The Black List: This isn’t a contest, but the site does offer a few contests around the year. I have a friend who won one, and it launched her career. Obviously, if you know my story, you know I was discovered on there in 2013. I have written extensively about this site and will continue to do so. I think it works, but I understand why others have complaints. There are no perfect paid ways to break in, but this one has good people behind it, and that matters to me.
- Stage 32: I’ve also written extensively about this site and the feedback. We even had a podcast guest who was a writer who got her movie made via the site. Right now, I think their feedback is worth trying to get on their recommended list. But again, all this is in flux. I met their CEO Richard, and found him to be nice and driven to help writers.
These are just a few examples of reputable screenwriting contests. It’s important to do your research and make sure you understand the rules, entry fees, and judging criteria before entering any contest.
‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’Credit: Lionsgate
Also, keep in mind that while winning a contest can be a great boost to your career, it’s not the only way to get noticed in the industry.
Networking, building a strong portfolio, and finding a reputable literary agent can also be effective strategies for advancing your screenwriting career.
The best way to break in is to have a great screenplay.
So go get writing.