Entry Fee: $60-$80 2020 Deadlines: January 19 – April 19
This Coverfly-qualifying screenwriting competition combines generous cash prizes with industry networking and mentorship. All finalists and semifinalists are invited to attend the CineStory Feature Retreat in October for a discounted price.
Writers at this exclusive four-day event are treated to three 90-minute one-on-one sessions with working agents, managers, producers, development executives and other professionals, discussing the script and overall career strategy. One grand-prize winner gets a free ride to the retreat and a $10,000 check. There’s also a year-long fellowship with two Hollywood professionals hand-picked to help the winner advance his or her craft and career. The runner-up scores $1,000 plus discounted retreat tuition, and the third-place contestant gets $500 in addition to the discount.
While film festivals are a great place to mingle with industry professionals, they’re big, loud, and busy. Meaningful connection between writers and mentors is more likely to be sparked in the intimate setting that Cinestory provides. The retreat takes place in the beautiful Southern California mountain town of Idyllwild, which is a treat in itself.
Entry Fee: $45-$70 2020 Deadlines: July 10 – November 13
This Silicon Valley film festival bridges technology and creativity. Still, good ol’ fashioned writing is a huge priority for the organizers, who empower screenwriters through discovery, recognition, and opportunity.
There are supremely rewarding opportunities to build relationships with influential industry professionals. Top 10 finalists in the feature category get passes to the Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival and the exclusive Writers Celebration, plus exposure to Hollywood players and inspiring luminaries. Finalists are presented on stage at the event with Maverick Spirit attendees, who are industry icons being honored for their work.
Maverick Spirit Award winner Neil Gaiman (Coraline) said in a testimonial featured on the organization’s website: “I think the most important thing about Cinequest is it’s definitely the first time I’ve ever come to a festival where my immediate reaction is, ‘What do I have to do to be invited back?’ and that’s not normally my reaction. It’s a perfect film festival in a glorious place.”
In another testimonial highlighted by Cinequest, 2016 feature screenplay winner Jeremy Rush said: “The Cinequest judges’ feedback and scorecards have always been top notch, and Cinequest is a respected and known festival. I had a fantastic experience attending this year.” He started entering in 2013, and the third time proved to be the charm. His spec Wheelman was sold to Netflix the same year he won.
Past winner Matthew Dixon, whose script The Glass Hotel was optioned by HBO, praised the organization for continued support long after the festival. “They get behind you, they stay behind you and continue to do everything they can to help push your project forward,” he said.
Entry Fee: $45-$65 2020 Deadlines: Closed. 2019 Deadlines were August 13 and 27
This isn’t a screenwriting contest in the traditional sense, but only a handful of fellows will be selected for this intensive, week-long winter workshop in Los Angeles. So it’s still a competition, but there are no cash prizes.
Instead, applicants are competing for individualized story and career development through one-on-one coaching with a personal creative advisor affiliated with parent organization Film Independent, which runs the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Spirit Awards. The Screenwriting Lab also introduces participants to industry veterans for guidance on both craft and business, and concludes with a pitch event providing the fellows with individualized feedback and discussions with industry executives.
Those who value education and experience over prize money should keep this opportunity on their radar and apply when they’re ready to really workshop a script, with an eye toward production.
A Film Independent blog post announcing the 2020 class of fellows perfectly summed up the benefits of this program. “The support is three-fold: in the validation of one’s talents that participation in the program confirms, in the resources and skills it helps provide its writers, and in the network it helps the writer to further develop.”
Entry Fee: $45-$75 2020 Deadlines: March 10 – July 30
Final Draft is industry-standard screenwriting software, so naturally, the Big Break contest has become one of the most recognizable names in the screenplay competition game. Every year,
11 winners are chosen and receive $1,000 for taking top honors in their category, while two grand-prize winners get $10,000 each.
But the real prize here is the chance to network within the industry. The 2019 contest judges were all literary managers and/or producers at reputable companies. Winners mixed and mingled with them at various meetings and networking events, including the Final Draft Awards, where grand prize winners Steve Anthopoulos and Todd Goodlett were recognized on stage and delivered a speech to a room full of Hollywood heroes, including Quentin Tarantino. Anthopoulos, who won the feature screenplay category with his spec My Summer in the Human Resistance, told MovieMaker he has since signed with a manager at 3 Arts Entertainment.
“I would recommend Big Break—they put so much more effort into making things happen for the finalists and winners than I expected,” Anthopoulos said. “It really was a dream come true. They flew me to L.A., connected me with a coach, took me to meetings with managers, producers and agents. I ended up signing with one of the managers they connected me with.”
The downside is that screenplay coverage is only provided to the winners. The upside is the Coverfly-qualifying contest’s reputation. Even if a contestant only places at the lowest rung as a quarter finalist, an industry insider may be more apt to give the script a read. One of the other cool perks of winning is consultation with Script Pipeline for potential industry circulation. Keep on reading to find out why that matters.
Continue to see the rest of MovieMaker‘s submission-worthy screenwriting competitions