Screenwriting Contests 2016: The Top Ten Screenwriting Contests

screenwriting competitions 2015

One of the best ways to get noticed by agents and managers – especially if you don’t have many Hollywood connections – is by winning screenwriting contests and competitions.

Winning screenplay contests is not an automatic ticket to success, but your work is more likely to be read by potential managers, agents, and producers.

BONUS DOWNLOAD: Click here to get a free printable PDF of the 2016 Screenwriting Contest Deadlines organized by month.

Screenwriting Contests Overview

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published February 13, 2015 and has been completely updated to make sure you have all the correct info. Enjoy! 

There are at least 74 screenwriting contests (you can find them here and here), but only a small number (in my opinion) are worth entering.

If you want to enter all the screenplay contests, go for it (though this can get expensive), but I recommend that you focus on taking fewer, higher-quality shots by entering the top screenwriting contests to which industry executives pay attention.

The following ten screenwriting contests are a viable avenue for getting representation and breaking in (especially for those who are outside LA).

The Top Screenwriting Contests

The Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting and Austin Screenwriting Competition are the best screenwriting contests because many agents, managers, and executives will read the winning scripts. There is a proven track record of writers who have sold scripts, gotten representation, and launched their careers based on winning these screenwriting contests.

Academy Nicholl Fellowship

Deadlines for 2016:

  • Early Entry: March 7 ($40)
  • Regular Entry: April 18 ($55)
  • Late Entry: May 2 ($75)

These dates have been confirmed for 2016, but the fees have not been confirmed yet. I have listed the 2015 fees for your reference.

Odds of winning (based on 2014 entries) 5 winners out of 7511 entries= .0006656

Austin Screenwriting Competition

Deadlines for 2016:

  • Feature Screenplay Regular: April 20 ($40)
  • Feature Screenplay Late: May 20  ($50)
  • Short Screenplay Regular: April 20 ($30)
  • Short Screenplay Late: May 20 ($40)
  • Teleplay Regular: April 20 ($30)
  • Teleplay Late: May 20 ($40)
  • Digital Series Regular: April 20 ($30)
  • Digital Series Late: May 20 ($40)

Odds of winning (based on 2014 entries) 10 winners out of 6764 entries= .0014784

Screenwriting Contests Worth Considering

BlueCat Screenplay Competition

Deadlines for 2016:

  • Early Entry: September 1 ($40)
  • Regular Entry: October 15 ($50)
  • Final Deadline: November 15 ($70)
  • Resubmissions: December 15 ($50)

PAGE International Screenwriting Awards

Deadlines for 2016:

  • Early Entry: January 15 ($39)
  • Regular Entry: February 15 ($49)
  • Late Entry: March 15 ($59)
  • Last Minute: April 15 ($69)

Scriptapalooza

Deadlines for 2016:

  • Early Entry: January 4 ($45)
  • First Entry: February 1 ($50)
  • Regular Entry: March 10 ($55)
  • Late Entry: April 15 ($60)
  • Final Entry: April 29 ($65)

Script Pipeline Screenwriting Contest

Deadlines for 2016:

  • Early Entry: March 1 ($50)
  • Final Entry: May 1 ($55)
  • Extended Entry: May 15 ($65)

Slamdance Screenplay Competition

Deadlines for 2016:

  • Early Entry: Mid-Feb to early April ($50)
  • Regular Entry: Mid-April to early June ($60)
  • Late Entry: Early June to Mid July ($70)
  • Withoutabox Extended Deadline: Late July

Sundance Screenwriters Lab

Deadlines for 2016:

  • Regular Entry: May 1 ($40)

TrackingB Feature Script Contest

Deadlines for 2016:

  • TV Script Regular Entry: March 27 ($85)

Tracking Board’s Launch Pad Competition

Deadlines for 2016:

  • Pilots Early Entry: January 15-31 ($65)
  • Pilots Regular Entry: February 1-29 ($75)
  • Pilots Late Entry: March 1-31 ($85)
  • Pilots Last Minute Entry: April 1-7 ($95)
  • Feature Early Entry: June 1-15 ($65)
  • Feature Regular Entry: July 16-August 15 ($75)
  • Feature Late Entry: July 16- August 15 ($85)
  • Feature Last Minute Entry: August 16- August 23 ($95)

Top screenwriting contests

Why Enter A Screenwriting Contest?

Screenwriting competitions are FANTASTIC motivators because of their rigid deadlines. Lots of writers struggle with procrastination (do you?) and committing to even just one screenwriting contest deadline can be a big boost to your productivity.

“Because of the anticipated surge in submissions, we cannot guarantee access to the online application form during the last six hours before the entry deadline. –Submission Rules, Academy Nicholl Fellowship

Many people wait to submit until the final six hours of a screenwriting contest that happens once a year, so you aren’t alone struggling to get projects written and submitted.

Another reason to enter the top screenwriting contests is to stay motivated. Making it to a quarterfinal or semifinal or top 25% (or however they whittle down the standings) can prove to an aspiring writer that they’re doing something right.

My Advice On Screenwriting Contests

Print out this calendar of the screenwriting contest deadlines.

Choose a contest and a deadline. Then, submit at least one script to one of the top screenwriting contests I recommend.

If the script gets recognized in any way (i.e., it doesn’t win but it makes the second round, or top 10%, etc), revise it and submit to three different contests.

If the script doesn’t get recognized, then keep it in your library of projects, pick something new from your development slate, and write something else.

Instead of submitting multiple projects to several contests (which can get expensive), you only make multiple submissions when you have objective evidence that your work is good enough to have a chance to win, and you spend more of your valuable time writing new material.

That’s plenty of work, I know.

And it doesn’t take into account the other aspects of how to be a professional writer that have nothing to do with writing that I cover in my course (e.g., networking, pitching, selling).

But over time, if you write and submit at least one script every year to one of the best screenplay contests, you will get better an your material will get better. If you submit multiple scripts only when they have received positive feedback, your chances of being successful go up.

What Screenplay Contests Have You Entered?

Writing down a goal increases that chances that you’ll complete it. Who wants to commit to entering one of these screenwriting contests? Tell me in the comments which of these screenwriting competitions you are entering….

 

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236 Comments

  1. Hello,

    My name is Gabriela Jimenez. I am a student from the Master’s Degree in Translation at Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica. I am writing you because I am looking for a movie script to be translated to Spanish as a graduation project. This will be for academic purposes only, I won’t charge you any fee and everything will be strictly confidential. Please if you have something or know someone that can help me, please do not hesitate in contact me back.

    My skype id is gabitta10
    My mobile is 506-88425261

    Thank you for your time.

    Best Regards,

    Gabriela Jimenez C.

  2. Hey, so three questions for you.
    1. Do all scripts get ready?
    2. Is there any chance. If a production company picks up and likes your screenplay, is there any chance you can star in it
    3. Are there awards beyond the money

    • Unfortunately, in my experience, most scripts that are submitted to screenwriting contests are not ready. Unless you are an established movie star, the odds of getting to star in your project are very slim if it is a studio project. There are many independent films, however, where the writer is also the star. Yes, there are awards that include meetings, submitting scripts to potential agents, production companies, trips and other awards.

  3. hi steph, i`m from kenya, do you think bluecat screenplay competition takes scrips from africa?
    and 2. i am an amatuer writer, i have never written a proffessional script before this is my first and i also have many other scrips that am working on. do you think amatuer writers have a chance? what can you advice?

  4. Hi Stephanie,

    thanks for this post. Very helpful.

    You suggested reading the screenplays and loglines of past winners, but I’ve found it difficult, if not impossible, to find any loglines of the scripts. An example is the 2014/2015 Austin Film Festival script winners. Any suggestions?

  5. Hi, I love this post very much and I really need an answer to this one: Is the Beverly Hills screenplay contest any good?

  6. Hi Stephanie,
    First I’d like to say I love your site, it’s one of my regular go-tos for screenwriting advice (you gave me a great tip on ‘Ex Machina’).
    But, more to the point, I wanted to ask if you think it’s worth it to enter a screenwriting contest, if you don’t have any scripts other than the entered one to show off.
    I’m currently building a body of work, and I made it a resolution to enter a contest this year, but I’m wondering if there’s any real benefit to entering without more than one screenplay.
    Thank you very much,
    Emmet

    • Hi Emmet, Thanks for the nice compliments. I think the benefits of having a deadline can be very powerful. It can also be informative and motivating to find out your are in the top tier of contest entrants. These can be valuable benefits, however, if your goal is to be a full-time writer, I suggest focusing your efforts on building out your library of material.

  7. I hate people, (probably including you,) and would probably enforce a brutal cultural revolution on the American people, if I had the power to do so.

    So, naturally, people don’t like me either. They understand me even less.

    How much do you think personality outweighs the strength of the actual script? I mean, just how two-faced am I going to have to be with these people? I am just submitting things to contests and hating everybody quietly and in private. If I just keep my mouth shut, I should OK, right?

    -Nobody is going to reverse a decision when they discover I am a complete right-wing Fascist..? Or, yes..?

    <3 <3 <3

    • For winning a contest, as that is based 100% on the actual script, your personality (of any variety) will have zero impact. If you want to sell a screenplay, however, your personality matters a lot as buyers aren’t just buying the screenplay, but also your ability to collaborate with the filmmaking team to make changes throughout the development and production process. Before anyone buys a script, especially for a lot of money, they will want to meet with the writer to see if they could work together.

  8. Hi Stephanie,

    Hope this hasn’t been asked before. A couple months ago I had done a draft of my script, and gave it to colleagues to provide feedback. Some gave feedback, I assessed them, and made some pretty significant changes to the point where I was happy with it, and submitted it to The Page Awards a few weeks ago.

    After this happened, I received more (delayed) feedback from the earlier draft from other colleagues. Though it was even tougher feedback, and I didn’t agree with all of it, it has valid points, so I had good hard re look, and am right now on my way to doing another draft, with some even bigger changes.

    The dilemma I have is – should I be trying to do a new draft, and re submit it to Page Awards (but of course costing me again), or should I submit the new one to an entirely different competition? If I submit to a different, whatever the results are for each, it’ll be hard to compare, as they would be different drafts I’ll be comparing.

    Or should I just wait a few months until I get a response from my first Page entry (but then missing deadlines for other competitions with my new draft). Don’t know what to dooo!

    • This is a common problem, Paul. I’d wait until all of the feedback is in, including the results from Page. Then, embark on a rewrite once you have all the feedback. In the meantime, work on a new script in the same genre.

  9. Hi Stephanie,

    I have a question for you about the readers of these contests. I entered one of the competitions mentioned on the list (the one named after an odd colored domestic pet). ;) I added coverage as well to get notes on my script. After I received the notes, they offered a re-submittal for the same entry fee. So I touched the script up following the recommendations I received and resubmitted.

    Both readers gave totally different evaluations. The first stated: “The characters were strong: we knew their jobs, goals, and needs. They felt like people we all know.” The second reader stated: “our characters are rather paper thin.”

    In the opening scene I mention that protagonist is “married” to the love of his life, and throughout the story mention them as being married. Both readers referred to her as his girlfriend.

    I mentioned the city where the story takes place several times and one of the readers mentioned it taking place in a totally different city.

    There were several other instances where they had opposite views and got things wrong with people and locations. Both readers liked the story, but I just found it odd that their views were so opposing to each other? I understand a lot of it is subjective and that they read a ton of scripts. It was just disappointing and seemed like they didn’t really read it thoroughly.

    Do you know if this is common?

    Thanks Stephanie, I love your articles. :)

    Lance…

    • Hi Lance, Yes, this is quite common. In general, script readers are paid very poorly so they have to work quickly and errors like this do happen. This is especially true of contest submissions. If you are looking for more detailed notes, I recommend getting script coverage. Here are some services I recommend: Script coverage services.

  10. Hi Stephanie,
    I’m a first timer with three questions. Is my script good enough to enter? I begged forty strangers to read the first ten pages, and gave them a week with the option to read the whole script. Sixteen people read the whole script. Fifteen of them liked it, but nine out of the sixteen didn’t feel the material was Hollywood worthy. I was hoping for forty people who loved it, didn’t happen.
    My script is a light hearted sports comedy. So should I enter it as a drama, comedy, or action film?
    Would a sports movie play better in a certain contest?

    • I love that you are asking for and getting feedback, Bill. That is terrific! It sounds like you might want to do some rewriting before you submit it to a contest. You mentioned that its a comedy, so I would enter it as a comedy and make sure the script is as funny as it can be. A sports movie could work for any contest, I would focus on making the script exceptional and then finding the right contest.

  11. One competition I really enjoyed was the The Monthly Film Festival (TMFF) screenplay competition. Runs every two months and there are plenty of chances for everyone who’s written a good script.

  12. Thanks for the post, Stephanie

    I was wondering if this contests accept screenplays based on books or if there is any specific contest for this category.

  13. Hi Stephanie, I recently wrote and published a book about my Dad and his WWII experience as a POW and later as he worked on the Manhattan Project. There are many twists and turns all based on his secret diaries. Are there any contests that are interested in that genre? Many thanks, Lisa

  14. Just received this email…

    We’d prefer you not enter the contest, and will cancel the registration.

    Matt Misetich
    Director of Development
    Script Pipeline
    2633 Lincoln Blvd. #701
    Santa Monica, CA 90405

    ….Sadly they don’t seem to want people from outside Tinseltown and certainly not from Canada.

    :(

  15. I have had some truly terrible results from screenplay contests.

    – The Las Vegas one sent me a rejection at the end of the festival, but when I checked, they had never even downloaded it.
    – I reached the final of the Three Cities FF, but they went bust and rebooted as another festival without ever judging who won.
    – Another festival, run by a Film School at a major university mentioned something which I sent in a minor complaint about,. Ten minutes later I was sent a reply telling me that I had been rejected, and this was barely after the opening of accepting entries. I had been rejected, in short for sending in a minor complaint without even being read.
    – The Northern Virginia FF sent me a rejection email just minutes after sending in and paying for an entry. Apparently they are rather snobby and instantly reject anything with an escort character in it, regardless of whether there is any sex or not (as is the case of my screenplay) instantly. They still kept the money.
    – Due to my tax situation (don”t ask), I can.t actually accept any prizes so when I won a prize at Bluecat, I had to decline it. A few minutes later I had Gordy Hoffman on the line being sarcastic and extremely rude. I later received an email from him banning me in future from competing.
    – The London International is huge but only supposed to be for British writers. I am a British citizen, but live in Canada so I asked and, off the cuff, they said yes, apparently not expecting me to get anywhere. I then reached the top 12. At this point, however, they then realised that I live in Canada, so they reported the winner on their site and the next top ten and just excluded me as if I had never even entered.

  16. Hey Stephanie
    I’m from Indonesia and I ‘m a beginner in screenwriting. So far I’ve written 4 spec-scripts(all english). I was just wondering if they accept foreign writer.
    Thanks

  17. Hi Stephanie,
    Thank you so much for this. The responses from some members have also been helpful. I have recently finished writing 2 scripts; but these are the first scripts I have ever written. I had a few questions:
    1) Should I enter in the Nichols academy fellowship or the Austins film festival,considering I have just started?
    2)can I enter screenplay into 2 contests simultaneously?Since the deadlines are similar.
    3)I am from Karachi, Pakistan. In ure experience does being from outside the US, hurt ones chances in competition?

    Once again thankyou for all the advice here.

    Julian

    • I recommend writing multiple scripts to improve your craft before entering a competition. You can enter competitions simultaneously. The location of the writer doesn’t matter, but you will be competing against native English speakers in an English language competition, so that is a much more important consideration.

      • Thanks so much for all of this great info Stephanie! I was wondering if you had advice on what competitions are better to submit to if you have a Romantic Comedy, Dramedy, or even a Family Film? It looks like a lot of these big competitions pick a lot of winners in the horror, sci-fi, drama, thriller genres. I’d appreciate any advice. Thanks again!

  18. Hi! I’m from europe and I want to ask you if I can enter in the Austin Film Festival by submiting a short screenplay.

  19. Great list – I was a runner-up at Scriptapalooza and they’ve done a great job at getting my script out there and keeping in touch.

    And adding to the comments below, I was also a screenwriter having applied for the CineStory Fellowship, and was lucky enough to be selected to attend their Retreat in Idyllwild a few years back. The experience was unbelievable – it was like going to summer camp exclusive to amazing screenwriters, managers, agents and producers. You quickly develop a strong sense of community and support with the writers and mentors. I’ve been telling everyone about it ever since. I have writer friends and industry contacts that I still keep in touch with to this day – and it’s landed me writing gigs I would have never had access to before. That Retreat undoubtedly changed my entire professional life.

  20. Writers might also want to consider submitting for the CineStory Feature Retreat, a nonprofit screenwriting organization.

    If you haven’t heard of us, we are smaller than some of the great organizations listed above but we are a passionate group who believes in what we do: nurturing emerging screenwriters through one-on-one time with industry mentors at the Retreat. Also, one writer is selected to be our Fellow where, along with some prize money, she/he is paired with 2 mentors who help navigate their careers over the next year.

    Two years ago, we discovered the script CAKE, written by our Fellowship winner that year Patrick Tobin, and another past Fellowship winner Daniel Barnz produced and directed the film which starred Jennifer Aniston. We just celebrated our 20th Anniversary and our Board Members include writer/producer Meg LeFauve (and to brag a little, that she’s up for an Academy Award this year for INSIDE OUT), writer Mark Fergus (IRON MAN, THE EXPANSE) and Susan Cartsonis (THE DUFF).

    Not only do you writers develop relationships with their mentors at the Retreat, they also have the chance to make great friendships with other writers from around the globe. Almost every year, we have a writer from the United Kingdom and Australia. In the past, attendees have hailed from Sweden, Japan and South Africa.

    To learn more about us, please visit our website: http://www.cinestory.org

    • Good question, Keith. If you win a major contest like the Nicholl or Austin, this can be a boost for your awareness with the press releases and executives do pay attention to the announcements of the winners. Often, agents and managers who represent the winners of the major contests will be able to schedule a bunch of meetings based on the “heat” of winning of a contest so they like it. In your case, I suggest asking your representation if they recommended you submit as you want to make sure you have a coordinated career launch strategy.

  21. Hello Stephanie, thanks for the information. Have you head anything about the Jameson First Shot Competition? http://www.jamesonfirstshot.com/ ? It looks like a great opportunity to put a first project on the resume. Is it common for contest winners to be required to sign over all rights? If I no longer own the rights would I not be able to submit the completed film to festivals or film contests? I have also heard that when someone sends over a release there is the ability to counter with a contract of my own. Is something like that acceptable or taboo?

    • Hi James. Yes, I have heard of Jameson First Shot and it is worth considering for those who have a short film script that meets the requirements. No, it is not common to sign over all rights for a screenwriting contest, but this the opportunity to have a short script made and that is different than the contests included on my list above.

      If you no longer own the rights, you would not be able to submit the film to festivals or contests. Expect that they will be able to make all decisions regarding the work and you will not have any power. They will want to make it successful (as this is what makes them look good), but it is unlikely to be how you would make the short film.

      Yes, it is possible to counter with a contract of your own in a negotiation, but for something like this, it’s very unlikely they would be willing to negotiate on their terms. Good for you for reading the small print! With the clear understanding of what you are signing away for the potential opportunity, you can decide if the terms work for you or if you’d rather not work within those parameters.

  22. Hi

    I read your article and one thing I’m not in favor of is entering a script into one contest and only revising that script if it advances.

    Problem is it’s quite common for scripts to win one contest but not fair at all in others. Its not uncommon for a script to make the finals in one contest but not even make the quarters in another. I always fair well with scripts in some contests and not even make the first round in others. Why ? – not sure – I think some contests have different emphasis and different readers and although talent really counts having some bad luck getting a reader who’s inexperienced or not a fan of your genre or style could make or break your chances. So you’re right, you can’t enter every one of your scripts in the same contest – not with the current @##$#$ exchange rate – but you might have to play a waiting game and instead of entering your three or four current scripts into contests over the next three months maybe enter them over the next twelve months at least three times and also try and enter them in contests that favor your genre or page count etc. That way you can at least have three attempts before putting that script to bed.

  23. Hi Stephanie,

    I’ve been quite successful with contests, but other than the Disney Fellowship they haven’t really advanced my career. Do you have some advice on how best to capitalize on contest wins?

    I’m currently hunting for a manager, and would like to use my winning the StoryPros contest a few weeks ago (Grand Prize winner from 977 entries) to persuade managers to read the script. Should I put “StoryPros Contest winner seeking representation” in the subject line of my email queries? Or do you have better suggestions on how to attract a manager? Any advice will be greatly appreciated!

    Cheers,
    Keith

    • Hi Keith,

      Funny I’m in your writers room in Ottawa. I bumped into an awesome manager when I was in L.A last fall. Scott Carr has represented a few writers that have made the black list and I saw his name in a few spec sales press releases. He has a website SGC Management give it a try.

  24. After submission, am I allowed to go off and start my own independent production of the film whilst the contest runs? I am sure there are probably some specific competitions which do not allow it, but in general, is this something one can do? Or, for the most part, do you have let that script sit unproduced for a year?

    • As far as I know, yes you can. Submitting it to a contest does’t mean that you can’t do anything with it while it is being considered. But as always, check with the rules and regulations of each competition.

  25. Hi Stephanie,
    really trying to move up to the current century anywho, would like to know what you think about the Industry Insider competition. It’s from the Writer Store and it’s the one where you submit a spec script based of a logline of their choosing. It has to be 15 pgs. I have been in at least three with no success. Do you think it’s a valid competition or reputable thanks again .

    • I like the Writer’s Store and I think the Industry Insider competition is a fun idea. If I were running a graduate screenwriting program, I would use this technique to find students or as a part of the curriculum. As an film executive, though, when I was looking for new writers to hire, I much preferred reading original completed screenplays, rather than a script based on someone else’s idea. When looking for an original voice, scripts based on books, articles, TV shows, suggested prompts from a competition or other ancillary materials aren’t as strong a showcase as something that originated completely from one writer. There is always that question of, “How much of this script is good because the original work was good and how much is contributed by the writer who is adapting or interpreting the idea?”

  26. Hi,
    I live in England, may i still enter scripts or are foreign entries not allowed?

    Please do advise

    Kindest Regards
    Ramman Gautam

  27. Hi Stephanie,

    Thanks for this. Shared it with the screenwriting group I help to organize. (We’re the Screenwriters Down South, in Baton Rouge.)

    I’ve been wary of contests in the past because I don’t think winning most of them always correlates with career success, but you make a valid point about motivation. Had the opportunity to visit the Austin Film Festival last year, which I enjoyed quite a bit, so I wrote down the deadline for that one. If nothing else, it might give me an excuse to visit again.

    -Nick

  28. Hi, Stephanie. Most of these contests are run by US-based companies. Can, let’s say, a UK-oriented script do well in such competitions?

  29. Stephanie,
    Thank you for this very helpful guide!!! Not only did you give some valuable info, but your many respondents have added much more. It’s a real gift to scriptwriters to put this all in one place, and prompt so may additional tips and comments.

  30. Hi Stephanie!
    This article is a great resource and an inspiration for me to continue on with my writing. Being a new writer, I was a bit hesitant and I had a lot of questions in my head like, “How many drafts do I need to do before I enter my screenplay in a contest?”…and…”Gosh…so many writers out there…” and “…will my first ten pages hold the reader long enough?” and on and on. As my doubts crept in, I began to lose my confidence. (Not your problem, I know…)

    Then I happened to scroll down the replies and as synchronicity would have it, I happened to land on Craig James’ reply, which for myself, made a lot of sense to me and gave me a boost to keep going in small, incremental steps. Something doable and practical to satisfy my mind without feeling overwhelmed from the competition.

    I guess it just depends on each person – where they are at with themselves and how willing one is to go through the fire. It’s a good experience to learn from. Knowing that the odds are high, I still feel inspired to finish my work and submit it in a contest or whatever best comes forward for me to do as a next step.

    Your blogs serve as a point of grounded reference for me. You’re writing is straight forward with the facts yet is reader-friendly enough to keep me inspired regardless of the odds. The replies from other readers serves as a reminder for me to keep my eyes on my own work.

    With that, I hope one day to share with you that ecstatic excitement of receiving an offer for my screenplay and to thank you for inspiring all of us to continue perfecting our craft.

    Cheers,
    Alice

  31. My experience from asking all I pitch to and my writer friends.
    1. Nichols Fellowship
    2. Sundance Film Lab
    3. NBC Writers on the Verge
    and any network or channel contest
    4. Disney/ABC
    5. HBO now has one
    Check Jen Grisanti’s page for other TV
    6. Austin FF
    7. Happy Writers see Stage 32 over 400 executives follow I won and met lots of execs
    8. Trackingb Launchpad and their other script contest has executives watching
    9. Blacklist all watch this
    10. Final Draft (execs don’t mention but I have to believe they have big prize and guaranteed representation.
    11. LA Film Independent Screenwriting Lab
    Screencraft maybe
    Script Pipeline maybe
    Bluecat maybe
    Coverage In maybe
    Agents ask for scripts on the Tracking Board all the time. Try to get your script in circulation there.

    Best Pitching Places
    1. Happy Writers on Stage32.com
    2. Virtual Pitchfest
    3. Great American Pitchfest
    4. Inktip newsletter and event

    Others listed don’t hear about much

    • Terrific comment, Betty. I didn’t include the fellowships and labs in this article, but you make a great point. Fellowships and labs are different from contests, in that they are designed to nurture and mentor writers to help them get professional work and they occur over a period of weeks or months. Some contests have a component of mentoring and meetings, but none are as in-depth as the fellowships or labs. In a list including all the fellowships, labs, and contests, I would put the major labs and fellowships (that you’ve mentioned here) above Nicholl, Austin, and the other contests.

  32. To be honest for a while I was receiving emails from you and I was just filtering them thinking they were spam. But since I’ve been actively writing the last couple months, I realised those emails led to your blog about screenwriting. Some of the best hands on advice I’ve come across, very informative. I was originally planning on finishing this script by end of Feb, and looks like that will time right with some of these competitions.. guess I should enter them ;-).

  33. I entered Tracking Board’s Launch Pad Competition. I didn’t exepct to make the 1st cut and I wasn’t disappointed. But 90% of those who made the 1st cut I found on the imdb! In other words, these people are PROS working already in the industry! Ditto, Script Pipeline, and every other contest I’ve entered.

    Bottom line: Don’t waste your time and don’t waste your money!

      • Hey, Stephanie:

        The point I was trying to make is you must read the rules of the contest. Most do not have a non-industry rule or that an entrant could not have sold a script. The Coppola contest I entered has a rule that an entrant could not have made over $5,000. In other words, a non-pro.

        What really angered me about Launch Pad is it sells itself as a contest for those with no industry connections or agent or credits. That 90% of those who made the 1st cut I looked up are in the business is more than fishy. It seems to me these contests are rigged.

  34. Hi Stephanie, Thanks for this timely reminder. I appreciated the general grading/sorting system you have applied. Overall this post is a useful incentive to get on the keyboard and get something out, no excuses! Best of the New year to all screenwriters everywhere.

  35. Hi Stephanie,
    Thanks for more fantastic advice! I have finished a few screenplays and I have entered BlueCat, Screencraft, Blacklist, and Script Pipeline contests. I have already had some useful feedback from Screencraft and Blacklist.
    I would really like to see a post about which contests favour which genres. Screencraft makes it easy because they have different contests for different genres, but in, for example, BlueCat, what genres tend to be favoured? I enjoy writing family comedies and horror. Could you shed a little light on which contests would be most suitable for me to enter?
    Reading your blog and your extras has really helped me as I’ve developed my screenwriting career!

    • Glad to hear about your experience, Katt. It’s a good idea for a future post and I’ll add it to my list. You can look at the winning scripts (or loglines) of the past winners to try and glean a clue about what they favor, but I don’t think there is a set agenda in the same way that there often is at a particular studio or production company. Contests want to pick scripts that will get the writers representation and scripts that will sell (as this helps the contest gain credibility and awareness).

  36. Thank you again Stephanie for this list – i really appreciate not only your work on putting this together but also your advice on which are the best ones to enter. I’ve got a couple of them bookmarked :-)

    Heath

  37. Why would a competition be open to contestants that have had past work produced? I believe Script Pipelinea allows this.

    • Thanks for the comment, Chanel. Keep in mind that screenwriting contests are businesses (not non-profits) and they have a goal to make as much money as possible, like businesses in any industry. Each contest has their own rules, so definitely check them out before submitting.

  38. Do you know which contest would be good for a romance movie? I know it is considered “drama,” but I don’t see many romance movies winning in some contests. I have planned for a few months to enter the PAGE Awards. Would you suggest submitting it as Drama or “family film”?

    • Good question, Dustin. It’s hard to make a specific recommendation without reading the script, but I expect romance films to have some sensuality that would take it out of the family film category, so I’d vote drama.

      • Thank you very much!

        I am still planning to enter the PAGE Awards, but as the deadline nears I’m starting to doubt it. The more I look at their past winners, the less I feel a romance movie will go very far. Especially since Drama is their most entered category.

  39. I made the top 10 in Scriptapalooza and never got a bite on the script, so that competition is dead to me. One thing you could mention is that competitions connected to film festivals, especially in and around LA, are great ways to meet people in the industry, even if the festival/competition isn’t as renowned. I met an agent at Big Bear, and it started the ball rolling in a HUGE way for me, and it wouldn’t have happened with any of the competitions that don’t have a physical presence.

    • Yeah, I’m also not crazy about Scriptapalooza, having asked a couple of their purported “judges” for the inside scoop. The contest boasts that they “don’t use readers” but, rather, that every script is read by an agent, producer, or manager. That may be Scriptapalooza’s intention, but I find their claim a bit disingenuous. One of my former agents, as well as a producer I spoke to, both said they had agreed to accept a pile of Scriptapalooza’s entries only after being hounded by the contest. “And how were the scripts?” I asked. BOTH of them laughed and said, “I don’t know, I told my assistant to skim them if she had time.” Neither expected any of the scripts to be good nor had any interest in reading them. In fact, their attitude toward the contest was worse than indifferent; it was borderline hostile. It’s one thing to ask agents and producers to read the FINALISTS of a contest, but no one wants an unsorted slush pile foisted upon them. In contrast, I’ve worked as a freelance reader for several contests and felt a personal obligation to read every script in its entirety, even the ones that were clearly hopeless. Partially this was because I was actually getting PAID to read the scripts, and partially because when I was first starting out, before I sold my first script, I was a contest entrant (and multiple winner) myself, so I knew how much of an impact it had on my own career. My 2 cents.

  40. Hi Stephanie.. I think I celebrated two birthdays after finishing reading your blog. .How do you do it (?) Would you use your influence or maybe you know of some..Winner screenplay ( past/present) of the winners, or top placements so that we can read and GET a sense a 6 Sense of WHAT the judges are looking for. Any PAST winners scripts available online to read.. Even Michael’s ‘Rum House” as so mentioned above , would be educational to view.

    Thanks love what you do!

    • Good idea, Wayne. You’re right that many of the recent winning scripts can be hard to find online. If you look at past winners of the Nicholl or Austin from a few years ago or more, you’ll see some movies that have been made and it is often easier to find those scripts. Keep digging online. I search “(Title) screenplay PDF” and often find scripts that aren’t widely available. Good news is there are many terrific screenplays available for produced films and that’s the more important standard, in my opinion. More than winning a contest (which would be terrific), I’m sure you’d like to see your script purchased and made. You can find many scripts that I have gathered here.

  41. I used the bluecat contest. I like that they give feedback on your projects and they also let you resubmit once after the first review. they told me some issues to fix which I did.

  42. Stephanie,

    I find this to be very valuable and credible advice. I haven’t yet finished a script, let alone thought to enter a contest. However, you pose a worthwhile goal so, I;ll take that challenge! BlueCat it is!

    • Thanks for the question, Jenn. When I polled agents and producers to find out what contests they paid attention to, Big Break wasn’t mentioned nearly as frequently as the others which is why I didn’t include it in my top ten. It is a well-established contest and it’s my impression that they are working to build awareness. If it appeals to you, go for it.

  43. Thanks for this post Stephanie! It was exactly what I was looking for. I am wondering if you recommend submitting to more than one of these contests with the same project, or is that even allowed?

  44. I made the semifinals in the 2015 Nicholl Fellowship competition which has lead to some inquiries from producers and agents, but I’ve chosen to wait submitting my screenplay until I’ve had a chance to do another rewrite based on some of the notes I received through the competition. I personally had a good experience with the Nicholl Fellowship competition.

    • Congrats and very glad to hear it, Andrea. You are smart to make sure your script is the best it can be before submitting it to producers and agents– that is definitely the right choice.

  45. Hi Stephanie, the info you regularly send form wonderful stepping stones in my learning curve. Thank you.

    My approach to contests has been to enter those that are more likely to be interested in the subject matter, e.g. Kairos for a script with a spiritual message, Screencraft’s Family-friendly for a script suitable for a 4 quadrant audience.

    I’m still waiting for results.

    Do you think this is an appropriate approach and gives one a better chance?

    Cilla

  46. Great list. Also, I have entered the Nashville Film Festival competition in two categories. Table Read My screenplay gives you good (and take-no-prisoners) feedback. I also like Writers store Industry Insider, even though I have yet to win. Most exotic competition I’ve ever placed in? Bahamas intl Film Fest/ScreenCraft.

    • A feature length script refers to a script that would be for a full-length movie as opposed to a short film. Feature length scripts are generally 90 to 120 pages in length which would mean the movie would be an hour and a half to two hours long.

  47. Hi Stephanie Palmer-
    I have two questions about pitching and screenwriting contests. Now for pitching: is pitching your ideas to networks, producers, agents and companies the same as sending it to them? And for screenwriting contests, is it true that you can actually get agents and managers by showing them your work? And finally, is screenwriting contests for everybody who really want to be in the tv and film industry?

    Thanks,
    Kenrick Bautista

    • Good questions, Kenrick. When I talk about “pitching,” I mean to verbally share a short summary of your project. Often, producers, agents and managers will pitch an idea to an executive. If the executive is interested in the idea based on the verbal pitch, then they will request the screenplay. Yes, some writers will get signed by an agent or manager based on winning one of the major screenwriting contests. This is not guaranteed and not all writers who win these contests get signed, but some do.

      There are many screenwriting contests and they vary in their focus and reputation. The number one way agent and managers find new clients is by referral. In my opinion, top agents and managers only pay attention to the winners of the major contests, but winning a major contest typically generates interest from potential representatives. Screenwriting contests are good options, particularly for people who don’t live in Los Angeles, to get noticed, but it isn’t required or the only option available.

  48. Thanks Stephanie! I’ve submitted a short script to Bluecat in 2015 (waiting to hear back) and am going to submit a feature to the Nicholl Fellowship this year. Thanks for all your great resources and advice! Do you ever consult on projects?

  49. Another great thing about Austin is that they give you free feedback. I submitted this last year and made it into the top 12% with a sitcom pilot. The two readers each gave me great feedback, that really gave me confidence and a clear idea of what to tighten up in my script. Can’t recommend Austin enough! I also submitted to Page, and just watched as lists went up without my name. Same price, no feedback, a lot less personal in general. Not that it’s not legit, it can just feel like you’re throwing your money down a hole when there’s no response to your work. Thanks for the post. Great list!

  50. Hello,
    I plan on entering one of these contests. I am currently working on a short film but I can pause that and focus on one of my features. Would you say it’s best to submit a full length feature film over a short film?

    Thanks! :)

  51. Hey, great list. I’ve been following this for some time now. I’m currently writing a feature comedy – what are some great contests for comedy? Preferably a well-known and respected contest not specific to comedy either. Anyone know of any? Thanks!

  52. Thanks for this info Stephanie! I will definitely be looking into both links. And btw, her story on teenink is titled, “Brendon’s Lament,” under her pen name, Originator. And her book on Amazon is titled, “The Great Storm,” by Ayanna Phillips. She wrote both at age 13.

  53. Great info. on your post! What screenwriting contests would you recommend for teenagers? I have a 14 year old daughter who has written a script. Her script is an animated TV pilot. She has a short story published on http://www.Teenink.com; and she also has a book published on Amazon.

    • Congrats, Tan. What great accomplishments for her age (or any age, frankly!) I don’t recommend any particular screenwriting contests for teenagers only because I don’t know of any that focus on that specific age group. You are welcome to apply to any of them, but she would be judged against all entries, ignoring her age.

      I would look for opportunities that are specific to students or teens where she has better odds of winning and could gain additional recognition. The White House Student Film Festival and Austin Film Festival Young Filmmakers Competition are two that come to mind. Best of luck to you and your daughter!

  54. This is an amazing list/resource, Stephanie. One thing that has been an issue for me, since completing my undergrad in screenwriting in 2004, is that I immediately began getting hired to write low-budget scripts for non-guild signatory agencies… and so many screenplay contests prohibit entry (if you’ve earned $10K or more as a scribe, etc.,). Still, great resource. Ty SO much! #gratitude

    • Congrats, H.! It can be frustrating to not be eligible for these contests, but it’s only for the best possible reasons— you are already getting paid as a writer. In my opinion, that’s better validation than a contest win any day.

  55. Dear friend, I am from India. I’ve so many ideas but no knowledge of entering any competition. I’ll be grateful if u could just tell me the whole procedure of entering such competitions. Also, plz tell me which genre of story lines are usually appreciated n successful in such competitions. I’ll be waiting for ur answer. Bye.

    • Hi Krisha,

      Screenwriting competitions are run by film festivals, writers organizations, and private companies. To enter a competition, check out each contest’s specific website as the rules, types of projects and dates vary widely. Most competitions do allow international entries. In general, drama does well in competitions, but you can get a sense by researching the past winners of a specific contest.

  56. I’ve got a couple of good porno scripts. Any contests along that line?
    Title of one of them is: Choice Cut Meat

  57. Thank you for this information. I am very concerned about the language in my script. I live in Macedonia and my language in the script is good but sure not as good as somebody with English first language. I am afraid that no matter how much the story is good I can’t compete with others…for me personal contact seems much better option, but is is also more difficult…I really feel stuck

  58. Y’all should check out my blog at awesomescripts.wordpress.com and drop your comments. It’s pretty new but there are really cool short scripts on it.

  59. I’ve noticed that only a few contests are catered specifically for short scripts…

    Artists Alliance Short Screenplay Contest is only for shorts, and the entry fee is only $25. It seems like it is its first year, but as a short screenwriter- I’m hoping the trend grows!

    For any interested: http://www.artistsalliancessc.com

    • Nice read, Stewart. As coincidence would have it, I got a rejection note just yesterday at 6PM, that I seriously felt was Oscar material. Here it is, word to word:
      < Dear Kalyan
      Thank you for applying to Lab 2016.
      Unfortunately, your project could not be included in this year’s selection. However, we hope that this does not discourage you from developing your unique and special story further. When you write the next draft, do keep in mind that for a story to be effectively adapted for the screen, an interesting protagonist actively pursuing his/her clearly defined goal is imperative. Equally important is a well-defined conflict set in a world that is logical, consistent and insightful.
      We do appreciate your time and effort in applying to the Screenwriters Lab. We wish you the very best and look forward to your submission next year.>

      Yes,I was discouraged like hell and felt insulted. But I kind of recovered, and before dinner sat down with my wife for some Merlot red to think afresh. I am happy that I learned something. So will us all, who take our work seriously and not get discouraged by rejection.I am now looking at the next project to put my hard earned money into. It’s a lot better than betting on horses, ain’t it? Kalyan from India

  60. Stephanie,
    I have done the contest thing several years ago, for my screenplay “Desert Galleon”, and had a lot of interest at that time, but had to put it on the back burner until now, but seem to have had better luck on my own.
    I sent a copy to an acquaintance (Mary Crosby, daughter of someone named Bing. Ha!), and within 2 weeks I received phone calls from both Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Seven Segal. They both loved it and asked me to stay by the phone, that was in 04, and I’m still waiting by the phone. Arnold was busy just having become Governor, and Steven was having his Mafia troubles. I was in contact with Francis Ford Coppola, but he told me to stay away from Steven because of his personal issues. Francis read and liked my screenplay, made a few suggestions, and read it again. He told me it was not what he was looking for at this time, but that I should feel honored, as he does not even read his friends screenplays, and he read mine twice. I do feel honored.
    I have several actor friends, one of which has been working full time in Hollywood since the early 70’s. They ask me once in a while about the screenplay, and where we are. They would love to be part of this movie, but my agent at the time did not get anything going (I don’t really think he tried).
    I was thinking about contacting Mary and asking if she would attach her name to the project, as maybe a Producer, maybe that would open a few doors, but I guess I’m just looking for direction. Would you have any advice before I start entering contest again. I did make the finals and even Honorable mention in a few contests, but it can be a very long process. Maybe Genre specific contests?
    Thank you in advance.
    Don

    • Hi Don,

      Attaching a producer with credits in the same genre as your project is the best scenario. If you don’t have or aren’t interested in making other connections, then genre-specific contests could be something worth trying.

  61. Another up and coming contest is the Shore Scripts Screenwriting Competition.

    UK based but open to international submissions. Great prizes, but more importantly, can give a writer great exposure with over 100 Production Companies on board to read the winning scripts. Check http://www.shorescripts.com for details.

    OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS: 1st MARCH 2015
    EARLY DEADLINE: 1st MARCH – 31st MAY 2015 – £25 ($37 approx)
    REGULAR DEADLINE: 1st JUNE – 31st JULY 2015 – £30 ($45 approx)
    LATE DEADLINE: 1st AUGUST – 31st AUGUST 2015 – £35 ($52 approx)

  62. Hey,
    Thanks for all the information. It really helps a lot to me.
    I am from India, 18 years old. a student yet.
    I write novels commonly, some times short stories.
    I have a big dream to be a Film director in Hollywood movies. As a director profession its even to have same skills in screenwriting. Its crazy but I can’t fight what I am passionate about! .
    So in order to do that I thought its better to be in a screenplay contents first so I started writing scripts for films from last 2 years. I have gained a lot of appreciation locally about my script since I choose the non common genre for my age : “Noir – Film noir ” , “Thriller ” and “Psychological Drama – Thriller “. I am a bit bad positioned economically. So its practically impossible to move in to LA to search a job and to be there… Do u think I chosen the right way to my career, by making firm – slow reputation growth by writing Screenplay and sending them to competition on the way to be a director?
    any answer is welcomed. :-)

    • Hi Ashrith,

      These are complex questions. If your goal is to be a director, I would focus on directing as much as you can where you are. This could be for free, volunteering for a film festival, participating with a school program or government funded arts program, making short films and getting to connect with other filmmakers in your community. Writing screenplays and winning a screenwriting contest will help build your reputation as a screenwriter, but not a director. Best of luck to you!

  63. I’ve entered my screenplays into four big competitions this year and have already spent a good amount of money to enter plus I paid for added feedback. Page International sent me something called eMeetings, that is suppose to connect you with agents and managers. I want to know your thoughts on this. Do you think it’s a waste of money or is it beneficial in increasing my chances of getting my screenwriting career started? Any information is greatly appreciated!

    • In general, paid online meetings and pitch sessions can be great practice, but rarely are held with people who have the power to purchase projects. The best way to get considered is to have in-person meetings as almost all projects are purchased this way. But if this isn’t a possibility and the money isn’t an issue, feel free to get additional practice pitching.

      • Thank you so much for the quick response! I may just do it for the practice since I live in the Midwest and it’s hard to meet people in-person. I appreciate the info!

  64. I entered Page Awards and Nicholl this year, in comparison with other contests chances here to get through are much fewer, especially when it is just my first script. I wonder whether there are any cases when newbies made it to final of any serious competition?

    • In 2010 I entered my first script into a well-known contest in Hollywood. It made the Finals. I polished, then entered it again in the same contest in 2011; only made the QFs. Polished, entered again in 2012; only made the QFs. Polished, made the Finals once again in 2013. So I figured that was enough entering.

      Be sure to read a screenwriting contests Rules & Regulations, Guidelines, or whatever they choose to call it, as some have it written in (not verbatim) that they can steal or borrow from an idea

    • Temur – A follow up on previous comment:
      Most contests, no matter how their statement reads regarding plagiarism, etc, is more than likely just protecting themselves should a studio or whomever come out with a story similar to yours. I just don’t like it when some use the words: borrow and steal.

      The judges who read scripts work for studios, film prod cos, etc. You may be aware that it’s the risk you take when submitting a script. What else can one do? Either accept it or never tell anyone your story. If anyone reading this has a solution, please post it.

  65. I’ve done well in some of the big ones, and it has helped with querying agents et al. for sure. One thing I would suggest too: enter contests held via festivals. I entered Big Bear on a whim, made the finals, and decided to fly out for it. Met some cool people and an agent with whom I’ve had a relationship since. It’s these face-to-face chances that make the difference.

  66. Hey Stephanie,

    I wanted to thank you for this blog post. It has given me a new hope for the future. As a recent media grad, I was lost at how to get my foot in the door. It seemed that no one wanted to give me a job because I didn’t have enough experience. As a reserved person, I also have difficulty establishing connections and networking. I am horrible with speaking, but brilliant with written word. When I came across this post, I had an epiphany. I need to make the industry see me. I need to make them see what I can do. So, I took your advice. I entered a screenplay into The Academy Nicholl Fellowship contest. I am pretty confident and positive. Thank you, again.

  67. Hi Stephanie, thanks a lot for the post. Just a question: do you know some worthy contests in Europe? Thanks again

  68. Hello Stephanie. Thanks for this article. I am a known writer from Nigeria (Nollywood). I have done a number of successful works and I have worn awards locally. But now, I think I’m better suited for the international stage, Hollywood precisely. Your advice please.
    Adim Williams

  69. Thank you so much Stephanie for this topic. I have planned to make a short film but no one want to help me to make it so I decide to join contest for short film. I really hope this change things for me even though that I join Austin which is hard competition.

  70. Hi Stephanie,

    Many thanks for your hard work on the list by the way though I missed deadlines for most. Perhaps you or anyone out there with more knowledge and experience could help me since I’m a rookie to this field of screenwriting and screenplays…

    By the way, I’m an African native and resident-straddled in between three neighboring countries (Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somaliland) and, only as I turned 40 about ten recent months past decided to write some scripts of my own; currently just about half-way through my fourth (one original feature, and the first two episodes of an original teleplay + their full treatment so far all completed, and the upcoming fourth also being a feature…

    COMPLETED:
    1ST FEATURE: A HISTORICAL BIOGRAPHY TRUE STORY – 158 PAGES.
    2ND ORIGINAL ONE-HOUR TELEPLAY TV-PILOT: 42 PAGES.
    3RD ORIGINAL ONE-HOUR TELEPLAY EPISODE II: 42 PAGES.
    4TH ORIGINAL ONE-HOUR TELEPLAY FULL TREATMENT: 18 PAGES.

    INCOMPLETE:
    5TH FEATURE: AN ADVENTURE COMEDY – 54 PAGES.
    6TH FEATURE: A SATIRICAL COMEDY – 10 PAGES.
    7TH FEATURE: A SECOND SATIRICAL COMEDY – 10 PAGES.
    8TH FEATURE: A BASED ON REAL EVENTS DRAMA – 8 PAGES.
    9TH FEATURE: A FICTIONAL DRAMA – 8 PAGES.
    10TH FEATURE: A FAMILY DRAMA – 7 PAGES.

    Also have I written a series of new ideas all along, and for both feature films (39) and teleplays (9); but only loglines and titles, to choose from and, perhaps even develop in the near future.

    Now that said and as you all know a bit about my background, then coming down to the following questions:

    – What is really an average of scripts requirements that a serious writer is expected to deliver by those agents and/or producers at a given year?
    – Do you honestly believe that a foreign (AFRICAN) writer as me may have a chance to pull through out there? What are the odds? I mean, I know the competition is fierce out there for you Americans from what I read on the net and, might even be super if not mega harder for one of my genre. Could it be, really?
    – Do these contests sites truly acknowledge us foreigners work, or might there be chances that people like me may automatically be disqualified or handicapped due to our distant geographic location? You know, to reduce their own costs and all, vis-à-vis flights and accommodations costs in case any foreigners are potential winners?
    – Last but not least, if any of you have other feedbacks and/or suggestions to relay, please shoot, I would only but love you back for it! Thanks to you all… IDRISS.

    • Hi Idriss,

      Even if you missed the deadlines for this year, most contest run on a yearly basis with a similar schedule, so you can plan ahead for next year. It sounds like you are working very hard and are prolific which is great.

      For your questions:
      -Depends, but if you can deliver two feature screenplays per year, that is great.
      -The odds are very slim, even for people who live in Los Angeles. This issue isn’t nationality, but access as so much of the business relies on personal relationships. The more someone can meet and build a network in person, their chances go up and without the personal connections, it can be significantly more challenging.
      -Each contest is different, but many contests evaluate material in a “blind” way, meaning that the readers don’t know the writer’s name or location and are just evaluating the script based on the text of the screenplay.
      -I suggest focusing on building a reputation locally first, before trying to break into the Hollywood market. This could be working on other’s projects, getting your own made (even if the budget is very small), getting press about your projects, and building relationships with filmmakers in your region. Then, after establishing yourself locally and nationally, then you can broaden your reach internationally.

  71. Hello dear Stephanie

    I just want to know if it’s possible to send a short screenplay to different contests at the same time ?

    Your answer is appreciated

    • Yes, you can send the same script to multiple contests. I would be cautious about sending a short screenplay though. Most contests are for full-length screenplays and yours could be passed on, simply because it didn’t fit the expectations of the contest.

  72. Hi Stephanie,
    This was a very helpful article to read. I’m considering entering my scripts into contests, and it can get overwhelming. Your advice in this article is a great help to writers like me who want to establish a game plan.
    Thank you!

  73. “Contests are FANTASTIC motivators because of their rigid deadlines. Lots of writers struggle with procrastination (do you?) and committing to a deadline can be a big boost to your productivity.”

    If you need a contest to motivate you to write, you’re probably in the wrong profession.

  74. I have entered Page International and Scriptpipeline. I entered Austin and Nicholls last year for the first time. I used a evaluation service with the Black List and it helped a lot. Due to financial constraint, it is not always possible to get evaluations done over and over again. I took a chance and edited what I thought they suggested since it wasn’t page by page. I entered it in Page and plan to enter it in Austin. I entered movie ideas with Scriptpipeline instead. I don’t even need a screenplay completed for that competition. I literally have until July to get something ready if I win the movie idea competition. Also, I would think of you win in smaller competitions one year, try getting a full screenplay analysis and then enter it in two big contests.

  75. Is the Tracking Board Launch Pad contest that’s listed above for features or for pilots? I’m assuming features since when you click on it, it comes up with a pilot competition that has different dates.

    • Yes, features, but I also recommend Tracking Board Launch Pad for pilots. At this time, on the website they are redirecting the feature contest links to the pilot competition.

  76. Great post, Stephanie, and great advice. I had gone through and picked out the best contests (based on what I’d read on various screenwriting blogs), but you had a couple additional ones, so I added those to my MovieBytes contest list. I had received a CONSIDER when I submitted my comedy for coverage last fall, so after rewriting it to incorporate the suggestions the reader made, I entered it in 5 or 6 contests at the end of 2014. Only two have announced so far: I made the quarterfinals in both, but not the semis. I was crestfallen, but then I saw your post on this blog saying “if you place but don’t win, you’re doing *something* right, so rewrite it and submit it to three more contests.” I decided to follow your advice, and am so glad I did. I just heard back from one contest – the first step is for their readers to read your script and give you a rating (plus development notes). My revised script got a RECOMMEND! So exciting! I’d still have to be one of the top 4 in overall points to be a finalist in that contest, but whether that happens or not, I know the script is viable now, and boy oh boy does that encouragement help. The reader had a couple of good suggestions for even further improvement, so I have rewritten again, and am now going to re-enter PAGE and SCRIPTAPALOOZA with the revised script. SO GLAD I saw your post and followed your advice, instead of letting the bump in the road get me down. You give great advice!

  77. What wonderful timing. I was just combing through a screenplay, tightening it up and burnishing it, and thinking “time for contests”. Thank you so much for this info.

  78. Great information! What would you say are the Top 5 Teleplay contests? I take it Austin and Scriptapalooza are on the list, what would round it out? As a 40 year old visually impaired screenwriter looking to break in from the East Coast, I need all the help and advantages I can get!! (Might be moving to CA in the future though)

    • I haven’t done as detailed research yet on the TV side, but I suggest checking out Trackingb, Script Pipeline, Launchpad, Big Break Screenwriting, and Screen Craft Pilot Contest.

  79. Hello!

    I’m curious if I should be submitting in progress work or final drafts? I have a 5th draft that’s come a long way but is definitely not finished. I know the concept of Sundance is that you’d workshop it there… but are the others assuming this is the best the script can be?

    Alex

    • I would only submit scripts that are your very best work. Though you do workshop projects at Sundance, the competition is fierce to be accepted and the goal is to improve your project/process/connections more than before you participated in the workshop.

  80. I only enter contests that give feedback – 1) I want to improve, & 2) I want the ENTIRE script to get read. If a contest doesn’t offer feedback, they have no obligation to read your whole script nor to say why they tossed it.

    I have 17 wins or placements for 4 different scripts. I’ve never entered ANY of those mentioned here, but with the feedback from those I’ve entered, I’ve raised the level of my scripts so that I could maybe place well in these bigger contests, but I don’t like the odds.

  81. I was thinking about submitting to a contest offered by Virtual Pitch Fest, I wonder are they a trustworthy contest to even enter?

  82. I started my script 3 weeks ago. I would really like to enter it, but I just finished my first drat this week. Should I wait and miss out on all these contests until I get to my final rewrite? I really know nothing about all of this. I’m 32 and decided to go for it with no experience and I love what I got. Comedy. But first draft…. Start entering or make it pretty and enter later?

    • Welcome to the world of screenwriting, Trent. I strongly suggest waiting until you have the best version you can write before spending money to enter a contest. Make it pretty, make it sing, make it outstanding, then enter.

    • I’m sorry but if anyone in Hollywood read this he would laugh out this amateurism. Save your money. A script needs rewrites,rewrites,rewrites. Only a first timer thinks it’s good after 3 weeks of work.
      You can read my book Script selling in goodluckland. I’m struggling in this business for 15 years and I was as naïve as you when I started out. My book can save you time and money and open your eyes early on.

  83. What a great list! Someone who’s competitive will surely appreciate this. Taking a challenge is definitely a great way to improve. Helps you see areas you need to work on. I think this is great. Got any tips for someone who wants to enter one of these competitions?

    • I suggest finding some of the winning scripts from prior years to get a sense of the kinds of projects that are appealing to that particular contest’s judges. This varies, of course, but just like choosing a college or a sports team to play on, there are often patterns year-to-year. Read the scripts and see if your work would fit within the same categories or if not, try another contest.

  84. This is just what I was looking for. A good list, to be sure. Thanks a lot.
    I imagine I’ll enter nearly all of these, the ones that are still open for submission, because unlike when I was much younger and learning (and struggling), now I can afford the entry fees with no sweat, having a career that actually pays OK.
    I learned how to write screenplays 20 years ago, and wrote a lot, but when I realized it would take a miracle to do anything with them, I gravitated toward other art forms which offered more instant gratification, mainly music.
    But, every now and then I’d get a good idea, put something on paper. Today, I had a good idea. After spending the day ruminating and jotting notes, I’ll hammer out a first draft in a day or two, type a 2nd draft, and that’ll be the one I send out. I don’t think I’ll actually win anything, but if all I have to lose is about a K in entry fees, who cares?
    Thanks again for the list, this is just the resource I needed.
    Joe Caggiano

  85. I was also in the Beverly Hills Film Festival contest but I think I know the answer about this one.

  86. Wow, thank you for this. I am aimlessly entering contests and now I have some guidance. Have you ever heard of Screenplay Festival out of LA? I am a Semi-Finalist in that one.

  87. I know a screenwriter who has written 14 screenplays. He placed in top 25% of Nichols and felt the script he placed with wasn’t even his best script. So who knows how the judges will view your work. Seems very subjective.

  88. Yeah, Big Break should be on here. Would also like to see the odds for the other contests, if that info is available. Thank you.

  89. Hi Stephanie – I submitted an original drama pilot script to Sundance Episodic Story Lab on Wednesday, and I’m planning on submitting my short script into PAGE Awards, Screen Craft, Slamdance and Austin Film Festival. You’re right. I’m going to be broke after all these competitions. I plan to attend the Austin Film Festival. I can’t thank you enough for all the work you’ve done to help us screenwriters. Your blog is #1 on my list of priorities and I help promote it at every chance I get.

    I will surely thank you if and when I accept my award from one of my screenplays. I love you!!! xoxoxo

  90. I recently won gold with Page awards (action), 1st place (action) in Fresh Voices, Top 3 in Final Draft, and placed in a few others. After winning Page I was contacted by managers and then signed with one. My script is getting read and my new script will be making the rounds very soon as well. For what it’s worth, I had ONE script and entered bigger contests for the most part.
    After speaking with managers and friends who are readers, the “general” POV is that only the biggest contests are typically career-changing. Smaller contests simply don’t garner the power and respect. So smaller wins were fun, but it was the Page Awards that was the game changer. Nicholl, Page and perhaps Final Draft Big Break are among the bigger players. Austin is certainly big and Bluecat has moved up. But I was told many times that only Page and Nicholl turn heads in a big way. This was certainly my experience.
    This is NOT to say that small contests can’t help you. Scripts are sold in many MANY ways and no avenue should be discounted. But if you think you’ve got the goods then I strongly suggest going for the bigger guns.
    Best of Luck,
    Capt. R

  91. Hey Stephanie,

    I appreciate that you posted this list but with respect it’s a little unfair to a lot of competitions that are doing some great things for writers. Sure, entering the competitions on your list has value, if you’re actually ready to submit to big contests! The fact is that most writers are not, and as a consultant I know you know this. The cold hard truth is that at least 90% of the scripts that come through any contest, or any consultant’s office for that matter, are just not ready, no matter what level writer you are. Writers should not be submitting to the bigger contests and getting shot down time and time again because it’s ultimately a waste of their own money, and worse, quite discouraging. And they WILL get shot down because contests like Austin or Nicholl receive 6000-7000 entries per year and the competition is fierce.

    So what’s the better approach? Smaller, reputable contests, the ones you unfortunately neglected from your list but are absolutely worth a writers time. You can almost think of it like a stand up comedian rehearsing their new material at a small club before hitting The Laugh Factory or getting an HBO special. You want to work out the kinks before going on HBO because you want to make sure the material is worthy of the stage in which you’re presenting it. And again, most writers, even experienced ones are not ready, particularly if it’s a new draft with little development time. This includes using a competition as a deadline for this work. Pushing to get it done for a big contest is not always the most organic approach to telling a heartfelt and truthful story. Sure it pushes writers to work faster but it doesn’t guarantee great results. And if you’re going to compete against 7000 entries, you want to enter your best. In the meantime, if you’re not 100% why not try smaller competitions?

    You may not know this but Vince Gilligan got his break because of a small contest. There are plenty great screenplay competitions that allow writers a stepping stone to build confidence, receive great feedback and make incredible connections. Your list sadly discourages that in some way because it implies that if it’s not your top 10 then it’s not worth a writer’s time. But that is a mistake.

    If writing was easy, then all the greats, Oscar winners included, would hit it out of the park year after year, but they don’t. Writing is not easy. So submitting to the perceived “top” screenplay competitions is a waste of money and in no way an incentive to improve your work. Working with consultants, taking classes, receiving feedback, etc is the best way to refine a screenplay, not setting a deadline to enter a competition that receives 7000 entries. A new script has little if any chance of winning.

    I hope you’ll consider what I’m saying and amend your article. The goal should be to inspire writers to go slow and not risk blowing all their money on the “top” contests. There are many paths to success and incremental steps make more sense.

    My best,

    Craig James
    Founder

    International Screenwriters’ Association
    Los Angeles, CA
    http://www.NetworkISA.org

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Craig. As a confidence booster and motivational deadline, I’m with you. As a marketing strategy though, I haven’t seen it be very effective. I have met lots of writers who have a long list of small contest wins on their resume and they are struggling to attract the attention of agents, managers, and producers.

      • I actually made a living for several years winning screenwriting contests. This was my strategy: I entered the small ones that offered a decent cash prize ($500 was my cutoff, unless the contest was free to enter) coupled with a low number of entries. I also entered a select few of the “big” ones to get a sense of how my scripts fared against stronger competition. (To be fair, my first script made the semis at Nicholl and Austin and won Bluecat, so I started off with beginner’s luck in my favor.) I won cash in the tiny contests on a regular basis, but I *never* used those “victories” as credits — I simply reinvested the cash in other contests. No one cares that you won first place in the East Cupcake screenwriting contest. I only mentioned the better contests when querying. Most years I won over 15k from contests, and used it to pay my rent. Granted, I had a slummy apartment in Koreatown (when Koreatown wasn’t cool) and was living on Ramen noodles. BUT, what tiny contests did buy me was free time. Time to keep writing. A few years later I won a Nicholl Fellowship and sold a script, and I don’t think I could have managed it if I’d been working a full time day job.

        TL;dr: Enter the little ones for the relatively easy odds to win cash; enter the big ones for a chance to actually break in. Never enter a small contest that only offers “exposure,” because you won’t get any. :)

  92. Great list. I have submitted to a number these contests. If I have a new screenplay I prefer the contests that provide feedback. Win or lose the comments can, and often are, very helpful. Once I have something that I think is truly worthy, then I’ve submitted to Austin and Nicholls. These two are very influential competitions but do not provide any feedback.

  93. Nice list Stephanie. Do you happen to know what contest accepts animation screenplays? I am wondering this because animation, I have heard, is very hard to get produce.
    Thanks for your reply.

  94. Thanks for this helpful post!

    Personally, it’s been tempting to submit to a bunch all at once in a spray-and-pray manner, but this has convinced me to actually have a strategy in mind. I’m going to embed this paragraph in my brain:

    “Instead of submitting multiple projects to several contests (which can get expensive), you only make multiple submissions when you have objective evidence that your work is good enough to have a chance to win, and you spend more of your valuable time writing new material.”

      • I flock to west coast festivals, anything with the words Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, etc. I have won for best script at the California Film Awards, Beverly Hills Screenplay Contest among others such as Beverly Hills Film Festival and the Los Angeles Movie Awards. Having nice west coast festival recognition makes a nice difference.

        As well, some festivals with nice prestigious names offer a fortune of placements. For instance, one in particular hands out 4 or 5 wins but then lists over 100 Official Selections. That increases one’s odds considerably! And a laurel from this festival, boasting a prestigious name, carries a touch of weight.

        So, for me, I look for a prestigious name and then I look to see how many placements they allow. Festivals that take 6000 to 8000 entries and only award 2 or three awards are not for beginners. I have won one or two of these but its no easy feat and I have lost far more than won. However, a prestigious or well respected festival that allows for 5 placements and then 10 to 20 (or more) official selections allows for a real chance to start your collection of laurels, boosts confidence and, in turn, quality of product.

        Also, it pays nice dividends when you opt for professional feedback. This allows for obvious input as to what works and what doesn’t and, more importantly, a nice blurb when you come across the need (or want) to query. For instance, I query one of my scripts with the following…

        “This is a powerful, well-written feature script that introduces a fascinating protagonist with depth, complexities and an inner turmoil that is interesting to discover, as it is sometimes hard to bear. A fantastic screenplay that showcases the skillful ability of a writer who understands a protagonist’s inner pain and journey, and creates a quiet suspense that will hook an audience! Michael is definitely a writer on the rise and a true talent” (WildSound Film Festival, Nov. 2013).

        Now, that sort of thing gets the attention of agents or managers that you might be querying. It separates you from the herd. ANd its a really, really big herd. So, get to the festivals, research, find the ones for you and, when applicable (or affordable) get that feedback. That alone will likely open a door and bring that unexpected phone call.

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