Screenplay Contests: Pros & Cons

There are a lot of mixed messages about Screenplay Competitions. Are they worth entering? Are they scams? How do I know which screenplay contest is right for me?

Let’s start with the PROS:

Entering a screenplay contest can have several advantages, including:

Exposure: Script contests can provide a platform for screenwriters to showcase their work to industry professionals and potentially gain representation or land a writing job.
Feedback: Many contests offer feedback on submitted scripts, which can help writers improve their craft and gain a better understanding of what industry professionals are looking for.
Prizes: Many contests offer prizes and other rewards, which can help connect writers with more resources and relationships that are hospitable to their goals.
Networking: Contests can provide an opportunity to connect with other writers, industry professionals, and potential collaborators.
Validation: Winning or placing in a contest can be an important validation of a writer’s skills and can help them build confidence in their abilities.

So what are the disadvantages of a Screenwriting Contest? Those would include:

Cost: Many contests require an entry fee, which can add up if a writer enters multiple contests.
Competition: Contests can be highly competitive and many scripts may be submitted, making it difficult for any one script to stand out.
Limited success: Even if a script does well in a contest, it may not lead to any immediate success or opportunities in the industry.
Limited access: Some contests may only be open to writers who live in a certain region or have a certain level of experience, limiting the pool of potential entrants.
Feedback may not be as valuable as expected: Feedback provided by contests can vary in quality and may not be as helpful as a more detailed critique from a professional development executive or a producer.
Potential for exploitation: Some contests may be run by individuals or organizations that are more interested in making money off of entry fees than in helping writers succeed.

So this all comes down to what you should look for in a screenplay contest. When looking for screenwriting contests, there are several things you should consider:

Reputation: Look for contests that have a good reputation and have been around for a while. Research the contest organizers, sponsors, and judges to see if they have a reputable track record in the industry.
Prizes: Consider the type and value of the prizes offered by the contest. Do they align with your writing goals?
Entry requirements: Make sure you meet the contest’s entry requirements and that your script is eligible for the contest’s category.
Feedback: Find out if the contest provides feedback on submitted scripts and what kind of feedback is provided.
Judging criteria: Make sure you understand the contest’s judging criteria and that they align with your writing goals.
Deadlines: Check the contest’s deadlines and make sure you have enough time to prepare your script before the submission deadline.
Accessibility and fairness: Look for contests that are open to all, regardless of their location, experience level, or other factors.
Transparency: Make sure the contest is transparent about their rules, judging process, and how the prize money is distributed.
Previous winners and finalists: Look for the previous winners and finalists of the contest and see how their career progressed after the win.
Cost: Be aware of the cost of entry and weigh it against the potential benefits of winning or placing in the contest.

Overall, a screenplay contest shouldn’t be entered as a pathway to “breaking into” the industry. A lot of competitions sell this type of hope and we think that’s a poor ethic. A contest is about seeing where you stack up against the competition; are you a top 5%, 10%, 50%? This is good to know. One thing we do at Scriptmatix is we have measures to ensure that all selections are fair. And while we have gotten numerous winners representation, and many of those winners have gotten paid jobs and staffing, that is not something that can be “sold” as a promise from any contest. Once we pass a writer onto a representative, the results of that relationship are out of our hands. So if anyone promises you more than an introduction, do some digging and approach it with a skeptical eye.

And one final SUPER IMPORTANT note. It’s better to spend your money on developing your material than submitting a bunch of times. For example, you’ll get way more out of an experience developing with a professional who is immersed in your work than sending a script out to 20 different random competitions and receiving feedback. Scriptmatix develops content with professional writers and organizations, so if you ever want a very professional assessment of your material or you’d like to develop with a team that cares about your work, get a free consultation here.

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