Scriptwriting contests (also referred to as screenwriting contests) can be a very useful tool in your development as a scriptwriter. One of the most valuable things they provide is encouragement and motivation. After a while scriptwriting can seem unrewarding but these contests give you something obtainable to strive for. You’re not competing with Hollywood giants like George Lucas, M. Night Shyamalan or Quentin Tarantino to sell your script. Instead you’re up against fellow eager, new scriptwriters looking to make a name for themselves.
There are literally hundreds of scriptwriting contests on the internet, all promising the prospective entrant a large sum of money, instant recognition in Hollywood and feedback from top writing professionals. However, as anyone who’s spent any deal of time on the internet knows, not everything on the internet should be taken as gospel. Some of these contests may be out and out cons. Of course the majority will be legitimate but some will be better than others.
Entering these contests usually comes at a cost which is why it’s especially important to choose the right scriptwriting contest for you. This is why it’s so important to put in a great deal of research before choosing which contest you wish to enter.
There are five key components to your research. This sort of research isn’t at all hard thanks to the presence of the internet but it can be time consuming.
Take a close look at the contests website. This is undoubtedly the most important thing to look at as you can glean so much information. If the website looks amateurish and is run by a bunch of names that you can find nothing about then it’s probably not legitimate, meaning you should avoid at all costs.
A good scriptwriting contest site should have a list of guidelines and a FAQ for you to peruse. It’s important to read these so you know exactly what you’re getting in for. For example it’s no good entering your romance/drama based screenplay to a contest which is looking for comedy scripts. So make sure you read the guidelines and find out if the contest is suitable for you and your script.
It’s also very useful to know how long the competition has been running for and how past winners have gone on to do for themselves. The better the pedigree the more worth there is to entering.
Feedback. There’s few things more valuable to a fledgling scriptwriter than professional feedback. If a contest offers feedback even if you don’t win then that adds a lot of value to the contest package.
Question previous entrants. Find a scriptwriting forum and post a message about the contest you are thinking of entering. Ask if anyone else has previously entered and if they thought it was worthwhile.
Sign up to Movie Bytes. Movie Bytes lists the vast majority of scriptwriting contests and has an excellent feature called “Report Cards”. Writers who have previously entered these contests write up a report and evaluate them. The best part is that this is completely free. You can also write up your own report card to help future scriptwriters. Visit the page here – http://moviebytes.com/ReportCard.cfm
Script readings. Some contests, particularly those attached to film festivals, offer staged readings of your script. This is a great way for you to evaluate the flow of your own writing and spot any changes you feel need making to your script. If this is offered it’s normally only to the finalists rather than all entrants.
A contest will promote their sponsors heavily, for obvious reasons. Make sure that the sponsor has relevant film industry credentials as this opens up another door into Hollywood for you. It never hurts to make contacts. Similarly a contest might promote themselves a being connected to a big time writer, director or actor. Check that this name is actually involved in the judging process at some stage in the contest guidelines otherwise it could be a lie or a case of the star not actually being involved, just lending their name.
You will also want to check up on the judges of the contest and what credentials they possess. Some contest will not make their list of judges known, possibly to protect them as well as contest entrants from potential corruption. However a good rule of thumb is that the more information given, the better. You most certainly want at least some information about the judges and the judging process before you even think about cutting a cheque.
Publicity is a driving force for any scriptwriter entering a screenwriting competition. Scout around the internet and industry magazines for press releases by competitions touting their latest winner. Another great publicity boost is if the competition pays for adverts in major film magazines promoting their contest and the winner. The more you have your name out there the more likely you are to get signed to a deal. You may also be promised contact with certain agents or production companies. Try and find out the exact details of these promises. A five minute phone conversation with an agent has no-where near the value of lunch with a top producer.
Some competitions even promise that the winning script will be produced. These type of contests are usually run by small production companies looking for good, low budget movies. Still, you want to check the validity of these claims by looking for past winners and making some form of contact with them for proof positive.
I hope this guide has helped you in choosing the right scriptwriting contest for you. Remember that you’re a writer now, so be frugal with your money!