We get that question quite a bit...
So, we did a little research came up with a great list. Here's some contests you might want to consider.
In no particular order...
The Script Lab Free Screenplay Contest
I think it is fair to see why this is a great contest to enter, especially for beginner screenwriters. While there is no guarantee that you will win this competition, there is absolutely no risk in submitting your screenplay and it is a great opportunity to get your screenplay read and seen by people. Because there is no risk or cost in submitting to this contest, you can also use this competition as a launch pad to other competitions with higher stakes. If you submit and are a quarter/semi-finalist, or grand prize winner, you now know you have a quality screenplay on your hands and you can use that to build up your confidence and build more connections from there. Although this competition alone won’t get you lots of money, fancy prizes, or meetings with Hollywood agents, it is a helpful step forward, which is a step in the right direction.
Cost: $30-$102 depending on date of submission and type/length of screenplay.
This screenplay competition is a standout first and foremost because of it’s name. Obviously, the Sundance film festival is infamous for launching many indie filmmakers to stardom, and this competition is no different. Having this name on your screenwriting resume will most definitely open a lot of doors for you in the industry. That being said, just as far as competitions go, it is also a standout. Firstly, you are able to submit between 1 and 140 pages depending on whether you are submitting a feature, a TV pilot, or a short. On top of the versatility of submission options the judges fully read every submission to come in and to ensure this they will also provide you with feedback on your work, which is a rarity for most competitions. There is also an option to add on more in-depth coverage of your screenplay for $80-$130 depending on the length of your screenplay and how fast you want the coverage completed. All around this competition isn’t too expensive and it is a great breeding ground for budding screenwriters.
Cost: $45-$70 depending on date of submission and type/length of screenplay.
This is a good screenplay competition for many reasons, one of which being, again, the versatility of submission options. For different prices you can either submit a feature or a TV pilot, and there is also a category for movie and television ideas that are yet to be developed for only $25-$40 depending on when you submit. This competition has been around for over two decades and is a dependable competition for screenwriters everywhere. With this competition you can get cash prizes as well, basically a turbo boost in the industry. Beyond feedback on your screenplay you will also have your screenplay circulated around the industry, you will be invited to private industry events, and you will be introduced to agents, producers, managers, and directors who have made it in the industry.
Cost: $49-$79 depending on date of submission.
The most notable reason this is a supreme screenplay competition is because of the insane amount of genres you can submit to. From horror TV, to animation, drama, scripts centered around family, stage plays, adapted works from the public domain, Screencraft has it all. The range of genres and categories certainly sets this contest apart from others, but it is also greatly beneficial to you as a writer because it can help you hone your skills in one specific area and be rewarded for your work in that genre. While other contests could be judging an wild action screenplay next to a drama screenplay about family, which is like comparing apples to oranges, this contest allows you to shine amongst other action film writers or other drama screenplays depending on what your own individual style is, which is a great opportunity, especially while trying to find your voice as a screenwriter.
Save the Cat! Screenplay Challenge
Cost: $121-$149 depending on date of submission and type/length of screenplay.
This contest stands out as it comes from the creators of the Save the Cat! screenwriting book and method, which has helped many aspiring filmmakers get their start in understanding screenwriting structure and how to write a compelling story. That being said, although it is a bit more expensive than other competitions, all submissions will receive 50 points of analysis on their work, which considering the method that the feedback is based off of, it will be high quality. Additionally, one of the awards for winning, beyond cash and a trip to LA, is a live table read of your screenplay, which can be immensely beneficial in helping you take your TV pilot or feature and develop it further.
Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Competition
Cost: $45-$75 depending on date of submission
This screenwriting competition is put on by the company that created, arguably, the best screenwriting software in the game, Final Draft. You can submit either feature length screenplay, 80-150 pages long, or a shorter teleplay between 20-35 pages long. This is a great competition to enter because although it is exclusive to those 18 years and older, it is a competition that is prioritizing diversity and making sure that all participants get an equal opportunity to compete and ultimately achieve their screenwriting goals. There are a total of 22 winners between both teleplays and features, one grand prize winner and ten runners up in both categories. This is a good, inexpensive competition that has helped people land winners deals with production companies like Paramount and agencies like United Talent. Additionally, the grand prize winners get $10,000 along with a trip to Hollywood, full screenplay coverage, and much more. Overall, this is definitely a worthwhile competition if you don’t have a lot of money, but have a screenplay that you are proud of and feel ready to share with the world.
Austin Screenwriting Competition
Cost: $35-$70 depending on date of submission and type/length of screenplay.
This is a prestigious competition associated with the also prestigious Austin Film Festival. Similar to Sundance, the name alone makes this a great competition to have on your resume. Accepting feature, short, and TV pilots from all over the world, this competition is a great opportunity to get your work read, get good feedback from real industry professionals, like the showrunner of 13 Reasons Why, Brian Yorkey. There are often guest, celebrity judges too. All around, this is a very reputable competition and it is a terrific pipeline to forge connections for yourself in the film industry, which is debatably the most helpful thing for an aspiring screenwriter.
Blue Cat Screenplay Competiton
Cost: $45-$60 depending on type/length of screenplay.
This is an interesting contest as it is judged and put on by the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman’s brother, Gordy. The mission of this competition is to help undiscovered screenwriters get their big break, and even if you don’t win, you still feel like your script was read with care, thus every submission receives written analysis from the judges. Something unique, and very advantageous for young, up-and-coming screenwriters is that you are able to resubmit your screenplay after you’ve received your feedback. Most competitions won’t allow for resubmissions of the same work, but this competition is trying to help screenwriters grow, and thus they can get feedback on a script, re-write it, resubmit, get more feedback, re-write it again, resubmit, and maybe this time win! And if not, get feedback, re-write, and re-submit again!
Academy Nicholl Fellowship
Cost: $48-$88 depending on date of submission.
This is probably the most competitive and prestigious screenwriting competition in existence. The Academy Nicholl Fellowship is yes, THAT Academy, the Academy Awards (Oscars) Academy. While the cost is surprisingly low considering the pay-off. If your screenplay is selected, this is more than a name on a resume and a connection to industry folks, this competition gives you an open door to the big leagues. Although nothing will come of it if you don’t work hard and prove yourself worthy of staying, it is a tremendous aid in getting your name known by many top executives and filmmakers. Some projects that have come from this were Lost Girls written by Nicholl’s Fellow Michael Werwie, Skyfire written by Nicholl’s Fellow Sidney King, Just Mercy directed by Nicholl’s Fellow Destin Daniel Cretton, and the Netflix show Unbelievable executive produced by Nicholl’s Fellow Susannah Grant. Needless to say this screenwriting competition is a remarkable opportunity.
The Swila Draft
Last, but certainly not least is SWILA’s very own SWILA Draft. This is among the cheapest screenwriting competitions out there and it offers something unique that no other reputable screenwriting competition is offering, that is free feedback and voting completely by your peers and fellow members of SWILA. Based on the highly successful weekly SWILA exercises, the SWILA Draft is an opportunity to take what you’ve learned from the free exercise and ample feedback from your peers and test yourself in a higher stakes contest with the prize being Final Draft software and a feature portfolio page on the SWILA website. All around, this competition is a great launching off point for eager screenwriters trying to get some confidence and writing under their belt. Following SWILA’s motto, Always Be Writing, the most important thing for an aspiring screenwriter to be doing is writing, so this competition can be a great motivator for you to take a month, follow the unique prompt (which changes with each competition), get inspired, and write an amazing short screenplay to share with the community.
Always be writing.
Follow Hannah on Instagram: @hannahwagner3932
Always be writing.
Tell better stories.
Never give up.