Screenwriting : Why is it so expensive to summit screenplays into writing contests? by Zorrawa Emily Ann Jefferson

Why is it so expensive to summit screenplays into writing contests?

Most contests are either 50 dollars to 100 to summit one screenplay. Why is that?

William Martell

They have to pay someone to read them, then they have to make enough $ to give away whatever the prize is.

Craig D Griffiths

Only go for comps that have feedback. Remember, winning or being a finalist is fun, but will not get you work (normally). It is a good gauge of how you are progressing.

Ana "Quin" Quinata

@William I was just talking about this with someone else. I think that's another reason why the closer you get to a deadline, the higher the entry cost is for some contests. Timecrunch = more money to pay someone to review the work. Especially if the contest provides feedback. I've heard it been said to make sure to research the contests that you're entering to see if they're worth it for you because Craig is right, most won't get you work. I placed in the London Film Awards but that was more about gauging how my work would fair across the pond than any meetings with executives here in the states. There is a list on FilmFreeway of the top 50 contests worth the entry fee. Give those a look.

Richard "RB" Botto

What William said. And while I kind of agree, Craig, I say only offer contests that offer access to those who can move the needle on your career. This business is all about opening doors and creating opportunities. If the contest you're thinking about entering doesn't do that, look elsewhere.

Ana "Quin" Quinata

@RB - I watched a video you did with Film Courage about a month ago and now I really look at what contests offer their winners and finalists in terms of meetings or mentorships. @Emily - I've added a link to the video for you.

Richard "RB" Botto

Appreciate you bringing that video up, Ana. Truly enjoyed filming that one. Had the opportunity to speak on variety of subjects. Protecting screenwriters, especially with so many snake oil salesmen out there, is something I'm extremely passionate about.

James Day

There are snake oil salesmen out there and how they slither to you when you've got a hot property on your hands that everyone wants to read. I look into everyone who I pitch to send my scripts to and network with. It's just good habit to get into. Happy New Year.

Anthony D Paul

Contest feedback isn't that detailed. I'd go with a consultant...and I will when it's ready.

Ana "Quin" Quinata

@Anthony - I've found that that depends on who is giving the feedback in the contests. Some reports have been very helpful to me while others, I felt, were not worth their salt. And this can happen within the same contest runners! For instance, I got a page by page breakdown from WeScreenplay along with character and story analysis which was superb! Entered the same script in a different contest by the same company and found myself wondering where in the hell the reader was even trying to go with their suggestions (i.e., comparing my romantic comedy to "A Walk to Remember" as what I should shoot for when writing love stories). I liked that movie and all but I'd have to say "Thanks, but no thanks." I'm trying to make people laugh here, not bawl their eyes out. Also, sometimes contests will offer notes at a discounted rate along with contest entry like they did here for the Stage 32 TV Writing Competition. If you're going to enter anyway and you can swing the feedback fee, I'd say go for it.

David E. Gates

Because a lot of people are making money on the back of people who have hopes of winning what is, let's face it, a very unlikely eventuality. You'd be better off saving your money and getting a script doctor/consultant to look at it. One even tried to justify that "cost of servers etc." was the reason for the ridiculously high "fee" to enter - which is just nonsense given how much you can hire something like that in the cloud for these days.

Claudia Marinelli

I was a reader for some screenwriting contests, they pay the readers very little, and sometimes nothing. It was very interesting experience to read other people's work and give comments and rate the screenplays. But it's a huge job for very little money. I thinkl there are speculations behind all these fees. Agents should be more reliable. I have little knowledge about feed back.

Fiona Faith Ross

Check this out, especially the "My Advice for Entering Screenwriting Competitions" towards the end of the page.

Lisa Clemens

Try film festival contests. WIthoutabox and Film Freeway will alert you to film festival contests and I think one or both filters by cost. Most do start out low and go high close to deadline so these two sites keep you informed as soon as they are posted.

Dan MaxXx

Look it s gonna cost $$$ to be a writer. get a part time job to pay for contests, save the cat book, pens & paper, software, webinars. People are paying $240K at USC, AFI, NYU film schools. 0 guarantees. It is what it is. It's Show Business.

James Day

Just came back from LA. I went to the Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Fest. Excellent festival. Great films. Networked and made contacts. Photographed and interviewed on the red carpet. My two scripts Smith & Wesson and Chameleon won for Best Screenplay. People came from Paris, Italy, Denmark, China, and other countries. Great films. You have to spend some money for round trip from NY to LA 600.00 which included hotel that had a window view of the Hollywood sign up in the mountains. Also make sure you spend that money on good coverage for your screenplays. Now I'm set to make a short film. Anything can be done if your willing to put a 110 percent into it.

Dan MaxXx

^^^^ This guy. Follow his playbook. He gets it.

James Day

No. I love Virgin, great airline. Plus I have to be in LA at very specific times. Hotel for 3 days included.

David E. Gates

Look it s gonna cost $$$ to be a writer. But it shouldn't. It's like those fake talent agencies saying "Pay us $200 and we'll put you on our books etc." and then the luvvies never hear a thing. A fool and his money are soon parted.

Dan MaxXx

It s Show Biz. Peeps gotta make $$$. JK Rowling was on welfare but she found the money for paper, typewriter and postage to mail her manuscript.

Patricia Poulos

Contests versus Execs... I've spent 2016 Pitching. No credits gained. No exec pounding down my door. But I've learned a lot. Will now go back to contests. At least some do what the execs did and give feedback and you are rewarded with 'Quarter-finalist' etc. to add to your credits and who know???

Anne Devina Reeve

Mmmm who wants coffee?

JD Hartman

@JH No different than the endless number of "International Film Festivals" popping up in every city and town. Accepting any short film as long as the submitter can fill out the entry form and their check clears. Ultimately screening only those that don't rank as the absolute worst of all the entries.

A fool and his money.....

Dan MaxXx

It s only $30-$70 for contests. If you become successful, a 10-15 year career in Show Biz, you're gonna pay more$$$ on the backend.

JD Hartman

@Dan MaxXx "It s only $30-$70 for contests...", if you have a day job that affords you the disposable income to throw money at you hobby/dream, fine go ahead. For some, like Emily who I believe is still in High School, perhaps the money doesn't come as easily. Try putting yourself in her shoes for just a moment...

Dan Guardino

John. The biggest reasons agents and producers won’t accept submissions is because they know or think 95 percent of scripts out there aren’t worth reading. If just one of your scripts wins or even does well in a legitimate contest an agent or producer would assume you know how to write a screenplay and place you in the 5% maybe they should take time to read. I don't enter them but I can see how they might work as a stepping stone to get ones foot in the door.

Dan MaxXx

From my memory, here are 3 Writers from contests:

Stage 32 member Max Adams- won Nicholls & Austin. 20++ years in the biz. "Excess Baggage" was a contest spec script.

Terence Winter - Warners TV workshop. EMPIRE & The Wolf of Wall Street

Mickey Fisher- Tracking Board. 0 TV experience. Co-Creator of a prime time network TV show.

Write great original material and Hollywood knocks on your door. That is it. The wannabes (including me) need gurus, save-the-cat book, pay for pitches

Dan Guardino

John. You are right and that is why people can’t just try one or two things. That is why screenwriters trying to break in should try everything because nobody knows what is going to pay off or when it will happen. Plus it really isn't about selling a spec screenplay it's about meeting people in the business that make films.

Max Malik

Because they need to pay the readers.

Erik Grossman


Paul Mahoney

Hi Emily, Unfortunately, it costs money to become a good screenwriter. Costs such as courses, books, conferences, software, reader reviews and competition entries can add up to thousands. In some ways, it's a bit like a business if you want to start a restaurant you have to buy crockery, cutlery, pay for a lease etc. Writing is the same, but with the web, you can try and reduce a lot of these costs. There are costs in running a contest because they have to pay for readers/prizes etc. so they cover costs via entry fees. allows you to search for screenwriting contests and filter to the budget that you have. Some allow a reduced price for students such as yourself. The earlier you enter, the cheaper they are. The downside, to that, is that it can take months before you find out how you went. So I normally start on the next script. Best of luck Emily. Cheers, Paul.

A. S. Templeton

Actually, the original is TANSTAAFL from Heinlein: There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

And what it really refers to is that strings are often attached to "free" things, or that some hidden subsidy with an expectation of payback may be involved. It does not apply to Pay for Play.

C Harris Lynn

Many have "Earlybird Deadlines" with discounted entrance fees. Make a calendar of upcoming contests, then save your money and hit them up early. :)

Fiona Faith Ross

I joined FilmFreeway. It's free. They send you automated updates from early bird deadlines to final. Good luck.

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