Entry Fee: $45-$65 2020 Deadlines: Now – April 27
Age of contests is often a good indication of the quality, and this competition has been discovering and promoting writers since 1998. The first-place winner gets $10,000, and genre winners get $500 per category, plus access to a few services that have partnered with Scriptapalooza—but again, written feedback is not included. Four to five pages of notes will cost entrants an additional $115.
This is another Coverfly-qualifying contest that works on behalf of the writers, semifinalists and higher, pushing their projects to a network of over 150 producers for an entire year. Another attractive perk is the fact that this competition does not rely on readers, and sends submissions straight to a working producer, manager, or agent, who serve as judges.
“We do not use ‘readers’ or ‘regular people’ because they cannot do anything with your script,” Scriptapalooza states on the website. “We go right to the source—a producer, manager or agent, they can make a difference, they can option your script, buy it, set-up a meeting or go straight to the studio with it.”
Robert McKee, a screenwriting authority known for popular books and seminars on storytelling, has given this contest his full endorsement: “Despite its frivolous name, Scriptapalooza is the best screenwriting competition I know.” That’s probably why he lets the grand-prize winner into one of his seminars for free—a $965 value!
Entry Fee: $50-$70 2020 Deadlines: March 1 – May 31
Script Pipeline launched in 1999 as a cover- age service, and then expanded in 2003 with a screenplay competition that has proven to be one of the best. According to the company, “$7 million in screenplays and pilots have been sold by competition finalists and ‘Recommend’ writers.”
A prize of $25,000 awaits the grand-prize winner and $2,500 goes to the runner-up. Both are determined by a judging panel of professionals.
But what really separates this Coverfly-qualifying competition from the herd is the long-term industry circulation that Script Pipeline facilitates. Script Pipeline has access to top executives, agents, managers, and talent, and the team prides itself on connecting winning writers with representation. Another plus is that all entrants may request a complimentary call with a creative executive, who answers questions about the contest, or the industry in general. Written feedback costs entrants an additional $115, but considering that coverage is Script Pipeline’s specialty, it might be worth it.
Tripper Clancy, who wrote 2019 buddy cop comedy Stuber, credited this contest for kick-starting his career in 2010.
“After winning Script Pipeline, I connected with my current manager and my current agents and everything changed,” he said in an interview with Script Pipeline. “The mentality shifted from, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to land a paid writing gig?’ to, ‘Let’s get you the hell out of your day job.’ That shift took place quickly, and within six months, I quit my day job and focused on writing full time.”
Entry Fee: $50-$90 2020 Deadlines: February 19 – July 27
The Slamdance Film Festival has hosted early work from some of the biggest names in cinema before they were stars, including Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight), Rian Johnson (Knives Out), The Russo Brothers (Avengers: Endgame) and Bong Joon-ho (Parasite). The screenplay competition is sponsored by the Writers Guild of America West, which hosts the awards party in October, so this is an opportunity to win some cash, receive high-end validation, network with industry professionals, and score a free pass to a film festival that caters to new, bold, and raw voices.
A grand-prize winner takes home $8,000, while winners of Feature and Horror categories receive $2,000 each, plus $2,500 in legal services from Pierce Law Group, LLP. The top three screenwriters in each category get passes for all screenings and parties at the next Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
In terms of industry circulation, the top three screenwriters in each category will be included in the festival program, and scripts will be distributed to production companies, studios, top agencies and managers by request.
Entrants can pay extra for more in-depth coverage, but at least everyone is guaranteed short and sweet constructive criticism from a reader, including a genre suggestion, a logline, and a paragraph outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the screenplay.
Founded in 1995, the festival prides itself on showcasing raw and innovative filmmaking, guided by the mantra “By Filmmakers, For Filmmakers.” So naturally, the screenplay competition favors bold voices. “We are looking for scripts that take risks, refuse compromises, and go places where Hollywood hacks fear to tread,” organizers state in their call for entries.
Entry Fee: $40 2020 Deadlines: New timeline will be announced in May
Here’s another opportunity to workshop a script with some of the best in the business. Every year, the Sundance Institute invites a small class of screenwriters to advance their projects at the January Screenwriters Lab at the Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah.
2020 participants will be paired with creative advisors, including Michael Arndt (Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens), Scott Frank (Logan), Andrea Berloff (Straight Outta Compton), and Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy). Not only do accepted screenwriters get an incredible education from incredibly talented people, but they also build a bond with the organization behind the Sundance Film Festival.
“Our Labs are the beginning of a long-term commitment to these writer/directors, who we will continue to advance with a robust, ongoing suite of customized support,” Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program founding director Michelle Satter said last year.
Joe Talbot’s drama The Last Black Man in San Francisco was nurtured here in 2016 before it wowed critics in 2019. For anyone thinking about entering, please be advised: The bar has been set very high.