5 Script Contests Actually Worth Entering

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Contests That Can Get You Discovered

Getting representation from an agent or manager in Hollywood is not easy. You have to find someone who believes in you and your work, and you need to believe that they are both capable and willing to sell your work.

One of the better ways to get noticed by agents, managers and producers is script contests. If you play your cards right, it can lead to an offer of representation. But what exactly needs to happen to make this possible?

First and foremost, you need to write a stellar script. If you’ve done that, then you’re ready for script contests. Now, there are hundreds of script contests each year, and they all cost money. Entering can get spendy. Also, some of the contests have better judges than others. You want real industry professionals who can help you network, get noticed and ultimately set up your project.

It’s worth your while to be picky about which contests you enter, so let’s talk about 5 contests that are actually worth entering.

nicholl

No 1 – Academy Nicholl Fellowship

This is far and away the most respected contest in Hollywood, and also one of the hardest to win — the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting. Every year, thousands enter the contest hoping to win.

The good news: they break the contest down into Quarter Finalists; Semi Finalists; and Finalists. There are only a few finalists, but there are several hundred quarter finalists — and your name and script title get published on the Academy site. Getting in that group is no small feat, and it will definitely set you apart from all the other writers trying to break into Hollywood. Each year, this contest awards up to five $35,000 fellowships to writers — a hefty hunk of cheddar.

The Nicholl contest has done the work of listing out their success stories, which you can read here.

austin-film-festival

No 2 – Austin Film Festival

The Austin Film Festival is a fan favorite. Almost all the writers who attend this festival come away oozing happy feelings and love for this contest. Like Nicholl, the AFF has attracted a record number of applicants in recent years, but they also have a category called “Second Rounder,” which includes far more scripts.

As a special bonus, entrants get free reader comments on their work. And: semifinalists and finalists’ loglines and contact information are also included in the annual Producer’s Book, distributed to all AFF panelists as well as nearly 500 agents, managers and producers. Not too shabby.

launchpad

No 3 – The Tracking Board’s Launch Pad Competition

This is a great contest if you’re looking for access to industry professionals. Their website reports that in the last two years, over 100 writers have been signed to representation from the features contest, and 50 projects set up. That’s a pretty great track record for a contest.

You can check out their success stories here.

page-awards

No 4 – PAGE International Screenwriting Awards

The PAGE International Screenwriting Awards states their goal as follows: “to discover the most exciting new scripts by up-and-coming writers from across the country and around the world.”

It’s a respected contest in Hollywood, garnering widespread recognition for discovering new screenwriting talent. They’ve got an incredible list of success stories to back up their claims, too, which you can view here.

 

screen-craft

No 5 – ScreenCraft’s Screenwriting Contests and Fellowship

The ScreenCraft contest is unusual in two ways: first, several of their contests focus on fostering mentorship for new writers by connecting winners with industry professionals; second, their contests are divided up by genre, eliminating potential genre bias.

ScreenCraft is relatively new, but it’s growing fast and racking up the success stories.

We’d love to hear which contests you’ve entered and liked to discover a few more, too.

author-avatar

Jennie Evenson is the author of "Shakespeare for Screenwriters" (Michael Wiese, 2013) and the forthcoming "Storytelling Secrets of the Masters." As a writer in LA, Evenson worked as a consultant for Netflix and developed ideas at production houses from DreamWorks to Focus Features. You can follow her on Twitter: @JM_Evenson

18 Replies to "5 Script Contests Actually Worth Entering"

  • comment-avatar
    Bob Reynolds September 16, 2016 (8:14 am)

    The first two are kind of obvious, then you cascade into fiction? What about money and prestige because of sheer numbers and history,etc? Where’s BlueCat in the mix here?
    thanks,

  • comment-avatar
    Sylvia Marie Llewellyn September 16, 2016 (9:20 am)

    I know that Nicholl is ‘the’ contest… but how many of their top scripts actually got made in the last 5 years, I wonder? For me, the contests are all about the feedback, which is why I enter in the first place. I know I’m not writing the next Oscar script… yet… I’m a finalist this year with Creative World Awards… Quarter-Finalist with Page… and Quarter-finalist with Script Pipeline… as I mentioned… it’s all about the feedback for me. I don’t submit to contests that don’t offer feedback.

    • comment-avatar
      Ken September 16, 2016 (10:14 am)

      Sylvia,

      Can you share a list of additional contests that you submit to that offer feedback?

      Thanks!

    • comment-avatar
      Carol September 20, 2016 (2:18 pm)

      Yep–I agree–the feedback is critical for me.

  • comment-avatar
    Pauline Hetrick September 16, 2016 (9:30 am)

    I entered Page Awards, then I forgot. When my seven pages of useable as well as positive remarks came I was surprised. I had been told by someone to give up on this script. But after reading these notes this script has new life. I am not only grateful to Page Awards for getting theses notes to me, but giving me a reader that not only critiqued my work with a light hearted strikes and comments, they included some positive remarks that helped me rewrite this script.

  • comment-avatar
    Jenny Cobb September 16, 2016 (10:20 am)

    If I’m English, will my spelling etcetera be held against me in the american market? Bearing in mind I was educated very formally in Britain, and can’t bring myself to ‘mis-spell’ words as Americans would judge.

    • comment-avatar
      Aimee Lamb September 19, 2016 (1:33 pm)

      I am British and I too received a classical English education both at boarding school and University and have not, so far, noticed any corrections to my ‘English’. Though I do have a memo to myself stuck to my computer – ‘if in doubt, leave it out’! this pertains to the letter ‘u’ which is often left out of American words such as harbour, favour, etc. And since I’m bilingual French/English I often have theatre instead of the American version of theater!

  • comment-avatar
    Lew September 16, 2016 (5:11 pm)

    I loved Austin Film Festival. Last year, I had a Second Rounder. This year, I entered a revised version of my Second Rounder and a new script. Neither one made second round. I was disappointed. Both are good scripts. Howeve, they are inundated with over nine thousand submissions. However, it’s a fine festival and plan.to try again next year.

  • comment-avatar
    Tom Haines September 16, 2016 (10:44 pm)

    Would I have a chance of getting anyone to represent me because…I’m a Vietnam Veteran, who was exposed to Agent Orange and been declared 100% disabled by the VA. I’m 71 years old and I’ve written one finished screenplay. (I’m not new to writing, just screenplay writing. I’ve finished a book written largely from the standpoint of humor, “SNAFU – My Vietnam Vacation – 1969” ( if you’d like, to read a couple of chapters, go to my website) I’m submitting to Kickstarter in November. I’ve written a number of newspaper articles and had a comic strip in a college newspaper, as well as a critique column. I’ve also had a poem published and written stand-up comedy for a number of comedians over the past 25 years. The screenplay is the last item on my bucket list and the biggest joy of anything I’ve ever written. I have “five” medical issues relating to Agent Orange, so I don’t have as much time as most to start a career. Any suggestions would be welcomed. Thanks.

    • comment-avatar
      Jim Donovan November 14, 2016 (9:02 am)

      TOM HAINES, I’m truly sorry you got exposed to that poison. The 2nd Allman Brother bassist died from it decades ago. The problems that you have may not help you get an agent, it may hinder your chances. They want a young writer with a future, so if they decide to devote a lot of time to that writer’s career, it may be a lengthy one. I am trying to think of advice here for you, like writing letters to directors to get their interest. You didnt mention if your screenplay is a Vietnam story, but I am assuming it is. The largest problem is that while there have been many made on it, now we have new war stories being told about Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. Hell, now they make comedies on Vietnam (TROPIC THUNDER).

      Maybe the best advice I can offer you is simply write another script. When I finally completed my 1st, I dove into another right away, wanting to write a specific six i’d outlined. In the next 2 years I’d completed 6 scripts, had moved to LA, and taken on a job writing film reviews. There’s something beautiful about being overly busy writing to a writer – its simply what we are supposed to be doing.

      I’m also a disabled vet, a former Navy SEAL who survived a chopper crash that wiped out my team. I live on morphine to enable walking. If I died tomorrow, I know that I completed 15 screenplays, well over a hundred songs, and while I’m unsatisfied with the film business, I’m quite satisfied with my work. I FOUND OUT THAT WITHOUT AN AGENT, IT WONT GET DONE. Might just have that on my tombstone.

      Jim Donovan

  • comment-avatar
    kyha states September 17, 2016 (7:30 am)

    what about Scriptapalooza?!

  • comment-avatar
    Not impressed September 23, 2016 (2:57 am)

    I was a finalist in the Austin Film Festival screenplay competition and the Tracking Board competition. Not one manager or agent reached out to me and didn’t respond to my attempts for contact. I attended AFF too. The majority of managers and agents were more interested in mingling at the Driskill bar than signing new clients. I’ve heard Nicholl attracts attention for quarterfinalists and up. The other contests are no guarantee of anything.

    • comment-avatar
      Jenna Milly September 23, 2016 (10:16 am)

      Have you tried getting in touch with the folks who run those festivals and asking them to create a few introductions? Curious if that might work.

  • Early 2016 | Pearltrees October 11, 2016 (1:41 pm)

    […] 5 Script Contests Actually Worth Entering | ScreenwritingU Magazine. […]

  • comment-avatar
    Frank smith October 21, 2016 (12:28 pm)

    Just like Hollywood – contests…even if you win or place high (semifinals – not quarterfinals) – it is still a proverbial crapshoot…

  • comment-avatar
    Jim Donovan November 14, 2016 (8:42 am)

    I found that the largest problem in LA are the readers – they are children, fresh with a film degree, which means they just left a classroom for the 1st time in their lives, and live in LA on low pay. ZERO life experience! SO if your drama isn’t what they can relate to from that limited core, they find it unbelievable, or some other lame comments like this. They are all comic book devotees, love rap music, and this is why what they like gets made into the crap that comes out.

    • comment-avatar
      Marc April 11, 2017 (12:35 am)

      I’ve found that film school graduates sop up anything that has to do with film, contemporary or classic. They’ll watch anything and everything so they can shape and mold what they want to write / direct. You think an industry reader is given a Batman script and asked his opinion? Superhero movies make a billion dollars. That’s why every studio wants to make them.

  • comment-avatar
    Paul Clarke March 13, 2017 (5:30 pm)

    Fascinating, Jim Donovan… Yeah, if the readers are predominantly youngsters with limited life experience, historical perspective, and therefore wisdom, I think we do have a problem – and might account for the huge percentage of blockbusters that are based on Marvel comics and graphic novels… Having said that, mature dramas do get made, and I guess we just have to write from our own perceptions with sincerity, and try to quell our cynicism… Films get made, people write them… That remains the truism that we have to cling to… plus fashions go in waves, and things change… even films, and film-makers…

    And, by the way, what is the industry perception of Scriptapalooza…???

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