Screenwriting : Competitions: Are They Worth It? by Nathanial House

Nathanial House

Competitions: Are They Worth It?

Hello everyone! I've been checking out screenplay competitions online (and there are a TON of them), and a good portion of them look like scams -- in one way or another. I want to submit to at least one to get my stuff out there, so I am asking for everyone's advice. What are legitimate ones? What were your personal experiences with them? Which ones would you recommend? Thank you for your time!

Laurie Ashbourne

You have to ask yourself what you're looking to get out of it, cash and prizes, or face to face time with a decision maker etc. There are a handful that are respected enough to mean something to your career -- but even so, it's up to you to make the most of it if you place or win. Austin and Nicholl are probably the top 2 but they are closed for submissions this round and get thousands of entries so the odds are tough. Stage 32 has a great genre one going on that can really make a difference in your career if you have that sort of material. Do your homework based on your material and what you hope to achieve, is the bottom line, some place have very niche comps that can help. For instance Nevada film commission.

Nathanial House

Thank you Laurie!

Laurie Ashbourne

Sure thing!

Mike Romoth

Contests are one way to get some notice, but competition is EXTREME. 8000 entries for a contest with one winner, etc. A writing career for film and TV is a slow build and you have to be ready to pursue your goals for the long haul. Pitchfests are another way to get real face time with industry pros. I'm going to my first pitchfest in LA in mid-August and will be posting some of my experiences on Stage 32. Stage 32 also sponsors pitchfests via Skype and written formats. I'm going to check those out afterward.

Elia Sage Hoover

partying in la= Drugs. But pray for a miracle and see what happens.

Danny Manus

Look, the truth is there are about a dozen contests that anyone actually cares about. The more prestigious the contest, the more submissions = less chance of you winning. But entering the bullshit tiny contests or the regional/state contests probably won't do you any good. But the real question to ask isn't WHICH contest to enter. The real question is - IS MY SCRIPT GOOD ENOUGH TO BE IN THE TOP 100 OUT OF 7,000? If not, then you shouldn't be wasting money entering contests yet. At least not major ones. The reason those contests make so much money and get so many submissions is because writers are making the mistake of submitting early drafts and just "seeing what happens". Half of all submissions can be thrown out after 10 pages (I'm not saying they ARE, but they COULD be). So like what was said, you have to know what your reasons and goals for submitting are. If you think $50 is okay to pay just to see where you stand and maybe get some second rate notes, then great. Go for it. If you're looking to WIN, then your script better be fucking fantastic!

Bo Dean

Danny, which ones would you say matter?

Dave McCrea

My unofficial list of worthwhile ones:
Blue Cat
Final Draft Big Break
Austin Film Festival
That might be it right there...

Nathanial House

Thank you everyone! This has been a big help!

Danny Manus

Nichols, Austin, Page, FD Big Break, Scriptapalooza/Script Pipeline, Sundance/slamdance, TrackingB, the fellowships (ABC/Disney, nickelodeon/fox), and some newer ones like Screencraft, Fresh Voices, Tracking-Board, etc.

Adam McCulloch

I agree with Dave about the list of competitions but you shouldn't be entering them for the prize. Enter for the coverage. That's where the real value is.

Dave McCrea

Danny's list should be considered better than mine as he's on the production side, but as an artist, I love what Blue Cat does and Gordy Hoffman's openness and art first business second approach. They give coverage too.

Laurie Ashbourne

Few competitions offer candid and helpful coverage, some who offer better coverage only provide it to finalists of a certain level. I've been asked to read for a few competitions but when I was sent their coverage template, I turned them down (2 of which are listed within this thread). If you want coverage, why not just pay for that and then you can use the professional notes to actually win a meaningful contest.

Danny Manus

I agree with Laurie. I think other than Bluecat and Page, most contest notes are pretty lacking. you're paying like $20 for them and you get what you pay for usually.

Alex Bloom

Totally agree with Danny. SO many writers are sending in underdeveloped screenplays that it's almost like if yours is great it will beat those 7000 entires that suck. Don't send anything in until you've gotten a recommend or at least a strong consider from a company and only target the bigger comps who are friendly to your chosen genre. i.e. it doesn't matter how fantastic your wacky Airplane style comedy is, there's not much point sending it in to Nicholls

Royce Allen Dudley

As a producer, a boast of screenplay competition awards only tells me the screenwriter probably isn't a full-time professional writer. It may be wrong, but it's a common perception from the other side of the mailbox.

Nathanial House

Thank you everyone! I really appreciate everyone's input on this!

Georgia Hilton

the only value I see in "competitions" is a bit of fun, a place to try a new technique and blowing off steam between real projects...

Shane M Wheeler

I entered the Page Awards once, got to the second round (though I believe it's likely EVERY script gets that to keep people competing year after yeat- you cleared first round!). Paid for comments and read them, and it became immediately obvious they only read the first part of the script as they recommended putting in things the script already included. So, buyer beware, they may do a half assed read through and run with the money.

Dave McCrea

Well I know a screenwriter who had zero traction on his career, was not on the map at all, and then he was a finalist at Austin Film Festival and all of a sudden producers and agents were calling him and he had meetings at CAA and at this lot and that lot, and he got his pilot optioned. So if you're a finalist, it's definitely more than worth it, but it's hard to be a finalist!

Julie Merrick

Winning a big Contest (e.g.. Bluecat, Nichol Fellowship, Final Draft) would help anyone's career. Although not every contest is prestigious, many are very good gateways into the industry. Readers are often linked in to managers, producers and even making the finals in big contest will get you recognition. The competition is fierce, but we all need to measure ourselves against something. The feedback is usually reasonably priced and don't discount the feedback from these competitions because the readers are usually high-level. Best.

Laurie Ashbourne

Austin and Nicholl are the winners' lists that decision makers ask for.

Laurie Ashbourne

There are niche comps that definitely get winners traction -- it all goes back to doing your homework, and finding the comp that has legit access for winners and fits your material.

Valerie Lynn Hanna

I think its important to research the founders of each competition. Hindsight is 20/20. I would say hands down had I known who founded Emerging Screenwriters and Screencraft I would have saved myself the price of admission. They were rude, self-important and most importantly, UNACCOMPLISHED in their chosen fields. Ridiculous. I am advocating the Attorney General look into their practices, since once they insult your work, they tell you to buy their services to win. Certainly seems more offensive than Casting Directors charging actors for workshops and they are all being prosecuted. Do you have any idea how much these failed writer/actors are raking in on the hopes and dreams of aspiring writers. Do the math!

Laurie Ashbourne

Funny how this thread has resurfaced when I just wrote a blog post about the same topic the other day. Have a look, feel free to reach out:

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