Monday, January 6, 2014

The 5 Best Screenwriting Contests to enter in 2014

I am a screenwriting contest veteran**, and from my years of experience navigating those waters, I’ve seen the benefits and drawbacks of chasing that grand prize. The three benefits of entering contests should be the following: bragging rights, cash prizes, and (most importantly) Hollywood connections. Every entrant should look for those three when forking over an entry fee. After all, most of the contests come with a fee usually ranging from $30-75, and if you enter multiple contests for multiple years, then this adds up quickly.

If one Googled “screenwriting contests,” hundreds would pop up. That’s why it’s good to be strategic and only go after contests that can give you the three benefits and possibly a little something extra. Below you’ll find my list of the top 5 Screenwriting Contests worth entering in 2014.

1.     Nicholl Fellowship: This is the most prestigious screenwriting contest that you can win, and even placing in the semi or quarterfinals may give you access to getting read by a Hollywood manager, producer, or agent. The contest is run by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the same people who give out the Oscars), and it has uncovered such screenwriters as Susannah Grant, Ehren Kruger, and Andrew Marlowe.  Not only will winning a Nicholl give you bragging rights for life, but the prize is a fellowship of $35,000, which gives you one year to complete at least one more original feature film screenplay. http://www.oscars.org/awards/nicholl/index.html

2.     Bluecat Screenplay Contest: I was a finalist for this contest in 2010, and after winning, the head of the contest, Gordy Hoffman, was kind enough to meet with me and give me notes and I was also contacted by independent producers who heard about my placement. In addition to its professional benefits, the cash prizes are pretty high. The grand prize winner receives $15,000 and finalists each receive $2500. But what truly distinguishes this contest from all others is that ALL ENTRANTS receive script analysis. Buying this service from professionals would cost you at least $50, so the fact that it’s included in the entry fee is an amazing deal.

3.     TrackingB: TrackingB is a relatively new screenplay contest (it was started in 2007). Although its entry fee is high ($75-$125), its batting average for the success of its winners is incredible and it has a good reputation amongst writers. For instance, my friend was a finalist for TrackingB, and although she had placed in other contests, it was TrackingB that led to her getting signed by a major Hollywood management company. The other benefit to entering this contest is that if you enter two scripts or more, they give you free access to the trackingb.com website for one year. If you’re not too familiar with the site, it provides Hollywood job listings, script sales, industry news, and other information you would probably not know unless you worked in the industry.

4.     Script Pipeline: In 2010, I was a grand prize winner of the contest, and I had a great experience with it. Immediately after winning, I was read by various managers and production companies, and even though a few years have passed, Script Pipeline still sends me writing opportunities and shares my work with production companies. Plus, I also received other goodies such as writing software and a subscription to their Writers Database. It looks like recent winners will receive those same benefits, but now the grand prize is huge--$20,000! 

5.     Final Draft’s Big Break Screenplay Contest: The Feature Grand Prize is $15,000, and the genre award winners each get $1,000. Both grand prize winner and genre winners each get writing software, a listing on Inktip, and a year’s membership to Script Pipeline’s Writers Database, along with a lot of other swag; but an even better benefit is that all winners get to read judges’ feedback.


**In 2010, I was the Grand Prize Winner of the Script Pipeline Screenwriting contest (formerly Script Pimp), and I also placed two scripts in the finals (At the time, the winner structure was four grand prize winners and ten finalists.) I was also a 2010 Finalist for the Bluecat Screenplay Contest, and before that, I placed in the quarter or semifinals of the American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest, Scriptapalooza, and the Disney TV Writing Fellowship.

31 comments:

  1. This is helpful information. Thanks.

    I think it also makes some sense to enter some of the smaller contests. Granted, the prizes are not as great, but for example, I entered Nicholl and American Zoetrope last year. At Nicholl, my script was up against 7500+ others, at Zoetrope 2500. The same script went practically nowhere at Nicholl, but was a finalist at Zoetrope.

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    1. Hi Robert! Congrats on being a finalist for the Zoetrope. In addition to prize money, did you think they helped in regards to helping connect you with industry folks? Please let me know. Thanks! -Teresa

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  2. Thanks for the information Teresa.I do have a comment about Bluecat. I paid the $50 for the critique but never received one. I even tried to follow up with them quite a few times but unfortunately that was futile. As you know these contests can be pricey so to pay extra money for a critique and not receive one... SB

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    1. Hi Sheilah, Have you tried tweeting at them or writing on their Facebook wall? Sometimes contacting people through social media gets a response. Please keep me updated on their service. Thank you! :)

      -Teresa

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  3. hello teresa, i want to enter competitions but i dont have credit card of paypal to enter, is there any contest with out entry fee? i think not, i have written a very good story but cant find a good agent to represent. can u read mu story and let me know what is it like/.

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    1. You can submit your script to Amazon Studios for free. Good luck!

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  4. Thanks, this list was just what I was looking for. If you have any experience with Scriptapalooza?

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    1. Hi Harry! I have placed in the quarter-finals of Scriptapalooza, and the manager who read/judged my work actually contacted me. He asked for more samples, but I did not get signed. I debated whether or not to include Scriptapalooza on this year's list, but I ended up not including them because my friends had similar experiences where they received some attention from the contest but didn't get signed AND those writers did not get promoted a year after their initial win. HOWEVER, the prize money from Scriptapalooza is high $10K so if you are looking for a sixth contest to enter then I say go for it and PAGE.

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  5. Thanks for the info Teresa :)
    I was wondering can you send in the same script at multiple contests (for example Bluecat and Nicholl)?

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    1. I submitted the same script for multiple contests in the same year, and I have writer friends who do the same. That is totally acceptable. Plus, it's fascinating to see how the same script can do well in one contest but do poorly in another. It all just goes to show you how subjective art can be.

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  6. Hi Theresa,

    Can you give my some advice on the Disney fellowship? I entered the contest some years ago and I wasn't selected. I wrote a mock Law and Order: SVU script which was too short. Could it have had something to do with the content (not necessarily the length)? I wasn't too certain about what they wanted for a writing sample submission. Any advice? I'm also planning on entering Blue Cat, Script Pipeline, and Beverly Hills competitions this year.

    Thanks in advance! <3

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    1. Here's more information about the ABC Disney Writing Fellowship. http://www.tloclub.com/2014/07/everything-you-need-to-know-about.html Good luck!

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  7. Impressive screenwriting website. Thanks for the script contest coverage. I knew about these competitions, but it's good to see that you placed in many of them. It is like when I ran long distance races as a kid. You can win some, you can lose some. Every competition is different. Congratulations!

    screen-writing.com

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  8. Would it be foolish to submit it to Ron Howard Production company he used to have a web sight for peoples ideas.

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  9. How do you feel about the Austin Film Festival (either screenplay or teleplay contest)?

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  10. should my screenplay be copyrighted first?

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  11. Hi, Teresa, I think it's very nice of you to share all this inside information. I was wondering if any of these wins led to any options, filmings or releases. What I mean is do these contests actually result in movies being made for the winners? Thanks so much.

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  12. Thanks for explaining the nature of the contests. Here is an additional website of Erik Bork (HBO-writer "Bands of Brofthers") with 17 links to contest but without further evaluation: http://www.flyingwrestler.com/2014/10/screenwriting-competitions/

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  13. I'm curious about the copyright question. Has it been responded to? Should our work be copyrighted before entering these contests?

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  14. Could not disagree more about Bluecat though. I worked for them for years. The reason they give two analyses is because they contract this out at below minimum wage rates.

    I understand that the context of your meeting was different but Gordy Hoffman is a huge prick. Like, seething, scary egomaniac. I once contacted him about an issue with my check and was instantly fired for having bothered him with it (after nearly a month of just trying to get a straight answer from someone in his company). Not only that, but he accused me of trying to defraud him (he said I hadn't communicated something which I pointed out that I had, he apologize but still accused me of it later like a crazy person), accused me of getting his email by nefarious means (he'd group-emailed me several times throughout my employment, I didn't know it was wrong for "little people" like me to try to contact him). Seriously, the worst, most entitled person I've ever spoken to.

    At the rates they're paying, it's inconceivable that most readers are actually reading the entire script. I did, but I probably made less than 1/2 minimum wage as a result. I don't imagine a lot of people are doing that unless they're working out of Dubai and other slave labor countries. Don't support that and make this asshole rich... please.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. He also said they'd "remember me" and made weird, veiled threats I didn't understand. This was after I had made it clear that I didn't really give a shit about his firing me, so he wanted to have some way of scaring me. Pathetic. Don't trust this company.

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    3. He also said they'd "remember me" and made weird, veiled threats I didn't understand. This was after I had made it clear that I didn't really give a shit about his firing me, so he wanted to have some way of scaring me. Pathetic. Don't trust this company.

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    4. He also said they'd "remember me" and made weird, veiled threats I didn't understand. This was after I had made it clear that I didn't really give a shit about his threats, so he wanted to have some way of scaring me. Pathetic. Don't trust this company.

      Delete
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