Not all screenwriting competitions are created equal. Some are more worth the entry fee than others. How do you go about deciding which screenplay competitions are worth your time and money to enter? Today I'm talking about what to look for and consider when entering your winning script into screenwriting competitions, and it's not always just a cash prize.
- What are you getting out of entering or winning the screenplay contest?
Different script contests have different rewards for the prize winner, and when considering which ones to enter, it's essential to weigh the pros and cons of your return on investment.
Entering competitions will require a good amount of your time as well as your money for contest entry fees. Any competition that offers cash to the winner is great - we're all struggling to break in, and receiving a financial boost is always helpful. And competitions that provide exposure, networking, or mentorship are extremely helpful in launching a new writer's career.
I've won money as well as mentorship and fellowship opportunities in competitions for my original screenplays. Let me tell you, the mentorship and fellowships are invaluable, especially for a writer not currently based in Los Angeles. Through mentorships and fellowships, I've been able to meet people and network in ways I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise. The money is nice, but it can't necessarily buy you this kind of access. Some screenplay contests even offer meetings with studios, producers, production companies, development executives, or other industry professionals as the grand prize.
- Does the contest offer you script coverage?
Speaking of what you're getting out of it: Some competitions will offer script coverage, either as something you'll pay extra for or as a free bonus for entering their contest. You really can't go wrong with free (typically, you'll pay anywhere from $75 to $150 for coverage on a feature script), so that's great if you come across a competition that offers that. If the coverage is an additional charge, I recommend doing some research to see what people think of the coverage provided by that competition. See if you can find any other writers' reviews of the coverage they received on their feature screenplays before shelling out additional money for a service you might find yourself unhappy with.
- Will anyone recognize the screenwriting contest name?
How recognizable is the competition? Small film festival-based competitions can be great for meeting people in your area. Still, it's helpful when networking with established industry folk if the achievements you have are with competitions that they've heard of or competitions where other talented writers have received recognition. You could even be up against a professional writer depending on the competition you choose, which should also play into your decision. You'll also want to know as much as you can about the caliber of judges. Austin Film Festival, PAGE International Screenwriting Awards, Script Pipeline, and the Nicholl Fellowship are just some of the big-name competitions.
- Have you done your research?
Research! I cannot stress this enough! Always look into a competition first, primarily if you've never heard of it. Just because it's new or unknown does not mean it's not worth your time, but you should still ask around. Know the entry requirements and if the screenplay competition is best for short scripts, television scripts, feature-length screenplays, or other script categories. Ask other screenwriter friends on social media or other people you know in the entertainment industry if they've heard of or had experience with this particular competition. Don't just throw your time or money away on a competition that your gut tells you is sketchy. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do your research first!
Screenwriting competitions are great. I don't know where my screenwriting career thus far would be without them. When you first begin entering, you might find yourself wanting to enter your spec scripts into all of the script contests you can find. But, it's crucial to weigh the merits of each competition and decide if it's one that you want to put your time and money into. You don't want to get carried away and break the bank trying to enter every competition you come across! Once you have a solid list, start making a list of eligibility requirements and deadlines, so you're ready. No use paying even more money for late deadline fees!
Hopefully, this blog gave you some things to mull over and consider when looking for screenwriting competitions to enter. Now get back to writing those film scripts, and good luck in any competitions you enter!