Screenwriting Competitions

The Black List Feature Screenwriters Lab

Entry Fee: $30

Deadlines: February 1 – July 29

15 submission-worthy screenwriting competitions of 2021 screenplay contests

Argo was on the 2010 Black List. Courtesy of Photofest

This is another industry-wide favorite for scouting new screenwriting talent. The organization launched in 2005 by simply surveying film executives to compile a list of the most-liked unproduced screenplays, and has spotlighted future Oscar winners like Juno, The King’s Speech and Argo.

Over the years, it has grown into an excellent resource for screenwriters at all levels, providing not just a database of unproduced screenplays but also an inclusive community. It offers education, coverage, and networking events. For six to eight promising non professional writers who have earned less than $100,000 in the field, the organization is hosting a month-long workshop in September.

The program does not guarantee a spot on the annual Black List, but it is an excellent opportunity to develop a feature screenplay through one-on-one sessions with a wise mentor, as well as invitations to attend several story-related events with professional screenwriters, executives, producers, lit agents and managers. Due to COVID-19, all sessions will be held in the evenings on Zoom. The prizes here are growth, insight and industry connections that will, at least, lead to a better screenplay, and a better position writers to land representation or jobs. To be considered, post a feature length script on for at least one week during the Program Submission Period and opt in to the Program Submission Call.

BloodList: Fresh Blood Selects

Entry Fee: Free

Deadlines: Submissions to open this fall

15 Submission-Worthy Screenwriting Competitions screenplay contests

The Babysitter made the 2015 BloodList and was released on Netflix in 2017. Photo by Tony Rivetti Jr., SMPSP

If you’re dreaming of becoming the next horror maestro, this rare opportunity is both free and highly respected by industry professionals working in the genre. Matthew Stein, who executive produced Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies, told MovieMaker it’s one of the few resources for undiscovered talent that he pays attention to. Kailey Marsh, a literary manager and producer at Brillstein Entertainment Partners, launched BloodList in 2009. Like The Black List, the BloodList surveyed executives to create an annual list of the most-liked unproduced horror scripts. Arrival, Bird Box, The Shallows, The Babysitter and The Autopsy of Jane Doe are among the scripts previously featured on this list. BloodList was acquired by Brillstein Entertainment Partners in 2018. And a few years ago, BloodList launched a new initiative — Fresh Blood Selects — allowing undiscovered talent to submit original screenplays for consideration. Out of 457 projects submitted in 2020, ten were chosen, and a few from last year’s list secured representation or optioned their projects.

“I got into representation ten years ago because I wanted to find and discover and create success stories,” Marsh told MovieMaker. “The same thing goes for Fresh Blood. It’s really exciting to discover a new voice and see their script get made into a movie.”

Submissions will open again this fall. There’s no exact date yet, so just keep an eye out for that announcement. According to writer Brendon Udy, it was beneficial in more ways than one to be included on the 2017 Fresh Blood list.

“To say this was a game changer is an understatement, but perhaps not how you’d expect,” he tweeted this past February. “The script got me some interest from producers and reps here and there, but ultimately, it did more for me creatively than anything ever has. In writing Underground, I found my voice. And in finding my voice, I found a way forward.”


Entry Fee: $50-88

Deadlines: January 18 – April 25

Three winners of this screenplay competition will win some cash ($10,000, $1,000 or $500), but the main reasons we recommend entering is for the opportunity to score a 12-month fellowship program with two industry veterans as mentors, as well as to attend an exclusive four-day retreat with other writers and professionals to focus on developing your script and skills.

Participants at the CineStory Feature Retreat are treated to three 90-minute one-on-one sessions with working agents, managers, producers, development executives and other professionals, to discuss the script and an overall career strategy. In between those sessions, you’ll enjoy informal, interactive sessions run by two to three mentors, offering education on topics ranging from pitching like a pro to the state of filmmaking in the digital age. Then participants get to further hang and bond with mentors over meals, drinks and film screenings.

Normally, this intimate event is held in the beautiful mountains of Idyllwild, California, but because of COVID-19, the organization states, “There is a high likelihood that the 2021 feature retreat will be virtual. Please check back for updates.”

Film Independent Screenwriting Lab

Entry Fee: $45-65

Deadlines: Closed

In case you haven’t noticed, there is a trend on this list: we’re valuing education, experience and networking opportunities over prize money. Film Independent’s Screenwriting Lab offers all of those opportunities through a weeklong intensive workshop designed to provide individualized story and career development for emerging screenwriters with a fiction feature screenplay.

Each fellow will be paired with a creative advisor and work in group sessions to further develop a project, with an eye toward production. Additionally, the Los Angeles-based program introduces fellows to film industry veterans, for guidance on both the craft and business of screenwriting, while a variety of guest speakers may screen and discuss their own films and offer career insights. The lab wraps up with a final pitch event, yielding individualized feedback and discussion with industry executives.

Film Independent does not cover airfare or lodging for the lucky few who make the cut for the next screenwriting lab, which will take place in February of 2022. But remember, this is the same organization that produces the Spirit Awards before the Oscars every year, so expect to meet and learn from some incredible talent while immersing yourself further into a supportive community of moviemakers.

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