There are a lot of screenwriting competitions out there. Some offer real opportunities for writers, and some seem like they just want to take your money. Lucky for all of us, one competition seems to soar above the rest: The PAGE International Screenwriting Awards.
After working in film development for many years, Kristin Overn founded the PAGE Awards in 2003 to help both writers and independent film executives. “There was a real need for a de facto development department. Major studios have readers to go through the scripts but most of them are not open to new writers. I found there were a lot of junior agents and managers interested in new writers, however, they did not have the staff to read hundreds of scripts to find great material. The notion was that the PAGE Awards could function in that capacity.”
But the structure of the PAGE competition is helpful too. In some competitions, comedy screenplays must compete against dramas, often making it difficult for a comedic script to advance.
How the contest is set up
“We broke the contest down into ten different categories, so you only have dramas compete against dramas, comedies only compete against comedies, etc.”
Overn says this works better not only for the writers, but for the readers as well. “If a producer is looking for a sci-fi script, then they can read our top ten sci-fi scripts.”
The scripts go through five rounds of competition, which allows the cream to rise to the top. “It’s been a real win-win for the writers and the judges who read them at the top levels.”
This year, The PAGE Awards is partnering with Roadmap Writers – a secure, online platform for writers and movie executives to share information, send query letters and network with each other. Erica Bardin, Director of Partnerships for Roadmap Writers, says, “We found that when we create that intimate environment, executives are more willing to invest in developing writers and look at their content more seriously.”
Bardin also says that Roadmap’s ultimate goal is to move writers to the next stage of their career. “Whether that means getting optioned, or really solid representation. We’ve had over 20 writers signed in the last five months.”
Judges reveal their secrets
So, what exactly are readers, producers and executives looking for in a script?
Overn explains. “Obviously, the scripts with the highest scores will move on [The judges score a one to ten in ten categories, with the highest score being 100], but the hard thing to quantify is the feeling you get from a script – that sort of X factor. Does the story stay with you? Does it really move you? Those are the things that are most important. At the end of the day, that’s what everyone is looking for – characters that leap off the page and grab you, where you’re flipping the pages and can’t wait to find out what happens.”
When you’re a new writer, it’s also important to stand out, says Overn. “You need to establish yourself. The phrase ‘fresh but familiar’ really applies here. It’s the type of material the industry is looking for but has some fresh quotient – a fresh character, a fresh voice. Something that is unusual and striking, and gets them excited about the story.”
What to avoid
There are a couple things to avoid when submitting to contests. Try not to tell a story that’s been made into a movie a hundred times. Judges want something new. Also, make sure your script is free of numerous typos and formatting errors. Many judges think that if the writer didn’t care enough to make these fixes, why should they care about script?
The next deadline to submit a script to the PAGE Awards is March 17 but there will be a “last minute” deadline April 17. Good luck!
Got any contest tips? We’d love to see them in the comment sections below.