Thursday, 8 March 2018

How to Navigate Screenwriting Contests

Contest applications can get expensive. If you are using FilmFreeway or Withoutabox to stay up to date on the latest and greatest, their handy deadline notifications (though helpful) can quickly become overwhelming.

Like any career investment the key with contests is to make them work for you and your project's development. To me the use of contests is twofold: as deadlines and a means of improvement.

Keeping these aims in mind, with every new script, I determine a reasonable submissions budget and do some research on contests of interest. Next, I strategically select only those I think would be most effective at both improving my writing and / or the project’s chances of going to camera.

Overall, a good way to decide on contests is to ask yourself some of the following questions:

-is the deadline helpful to me? (i.e. I would like to have my next draft done in a month’s time and this will serve as motivation)
-is there evidence that its winners have benefited from the promised prize?
-can it be used as a means of improvement (i.e. free coverage with submission fee)

Here are a few selections that meet my criteria, in that I feel they are of value to the development of the craft, above and beyond a chance to win their main prize.

ScreenCraft (various)

One of the great things about the many ScreenCraft competitions is that they list the quarter-finalists, semi-finalists, finalists and then the winner(s). I love this because if you place, you get to see how close you were to winning and your status as a finalist serves as a worthy addition to your resume.


I love any contest wherein just by submitting you receive coverage on your script.

From BlueCat’s website:
BlueCat remains committed to the undiscovered writer and will continue its tradition of providing written analysis on every script submitted.

Script notes from anonymous industry readers are invaluable. To really get the most out of notes, of course, you want to be looking for patterns and repeated sections that aren’t working. This means, ideally you want to have notes from at least three different readers. The service itself can be expensive, so why not kill two birds with one stone and attain a round of professional feedback while at the same time getting a shot at further development / winning a prize?

In summary, when it comes to submitting to screenwriting contests, your best bet is to set a comfortable budget, research previous winners, look for the greatest personal return on your investment (a useful deadline, script coverage etc.) and ultimately trust your own gut on what to go for.

No matter where you submit, getting that next draft done and out there is progress (which ought to be celebrated).

- J

*J, Hear, hear!! Well said. I agree with all of the above and have no witty addition for this post. - M


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Maira Gall