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.