Are screenplay contests worth your time? For many screenwriters, yes, says Jeanne V. Bowerman, Editor-in-Chief at Script Magazine, and a writer who has fared well in screenwriting contests herself. But winning a prize isn’t everything.
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Some screenplay competitions do offer excellent rewards for winners, from cash prizes to consultancy, and fellowships to full-blown production. Those rewards are great, of course, but depending on the contest you choose (see more on that below), there are two more good reasons to enter a contest:
- Reason #1: Gauge Your Competition
“I think it’s really important to gauge where you are in your competition,” Jeanne told us. You can get a good idea of “where you fit in the pack,” she said. You’ll also learn what you need to work on, what makes other scripts stand out, and how to improve – especially if you enter a contest that provides notes.
- Reason #2: It Looks Good on Your Resume
Not that screenwriters necessarily have a resume, per se, but flashing your finalist, semi-finalist, or even quarter-finalist badge can carry weight on things like agent query letters. And you could get discovered if you win a contest with a good reputation.
“It kind of vets you a little bit,” Jeanne added.
But don’t rely solely on competitions as your only form of marketing yourself and your script.
“You have to remember, everything is subjective,” Jeanne said. “You can have the same script, and it will do really well in one contest, and not even make the quarter-finals in another. You may have written some really fun romantic comedy, and the reader of it just got divorced.”
Here are some pointers to make the most out of screenwriting competitions:
- Success Stories
Before you enter a competition, and more than likely, pay a fee, see where that cost has paid off for past competition winners. Where are they now? Do they have representation? Are they staffed in a writers’ room? Or did they disappear into oblivion?
- The Grand Prize
If you win, what do you get? For some, cash is helpful. For others, it’s the chance to have your work reviewed by an all-star screenwriter, manager, or consultant. Make sure the prize is legitimate, and make sure it advances your career. No one’s doing this for a plastic trophy, after all!
- Mind Your Pennies
Like Jeanne says, “there are more screenwriters who want to get paid than there are paid screenwriters.” Since most of us aren’t making millions just yet, be careful where you spend your money. Many screenwriting competitions can cost upward of $100, and they’re not all created equal. For some, you can opt to pay a bit more to get feedback on your script, and that might be worth it. You don’t want to be left with a rejected screenplay and no explanation of why or how it could have been improved.
Let the competition begin,