Screenwriting Competitions


Entry Fee: $49-69

Deadlines: year-round

ScreenCraft offers 14 screenwriting competitions each year, separated by genre or format, as well as a fellowship program. Keep an eye on ScreenCraft’s busy calendar to see when contest opportunities that best suit your work open up. With over 160 writers staffed or signed, it’s one of the better bets out there.

Prizes are uniform across the genre spectrum. Grand-prize winners receive $1,000, a personal introduction to literary representatives seeking new talent, screenwriting software, acceptance into the ScreenCraft Development Program, and a complimentary badge for the 2022 ScreenCraft Virtual Summit. The runnerup gets $500 and is accepted into the development program, receiving a 50 percent discount off of the virtual summit badge.

The ScreenCraft Fellowship is another opportunity worth considering. In addition to ongoing professional support, recipients are flown to Los Angeles for meetings, mentorship and personal introductions to key entertainment studio executives, producers, literary managers and agents. This year’s mentors include Oscar-nominated screenwriter Meg LeFauve (Inside Out), Oscar-winning screenwriter David Rabinowitz (BlacKkKlansman) and Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff. 2020 fellow Tevin Knight, who signed with management company Gersh, summed up why the Screencraft Fellowship is so valuable with this testimonial: “As creators, we often think about the movies and TV shows we loved growing up, and idolize those very people who made them. The great thing about ScreenCraft is once you win, those idols of yours officially become your colleagues. The transition from fan to fellow filmmaker is strategic and nurturing. With each introduction and meeting, your web grows and your dream has now become your career. The networking at this organization is invaluable.”

Script Pipeline

Entry Fee: $60-70

Deadlines: March 1 – May 15

Script Pipeline launched in 1999 as a coverage service, and then expanded in 2003 with a screenplay competition that has proven to be one of the best. According to the company, “$8 million in screenplays and pilots have been sold by competition finalists and ‘Recommend’ writers.”

Just last year, finalist Crosby Selander sold his romantic spec Bring Me Back to Legendary Entertainment for seven figures. That’s one of the biggest spec sales of all time from an unproduced writer. “Before Script Pipeline picked it as a finalist, I was actually in the process of adapting it to become a scripted podcast for a book agent. Fortunately, the recognition came just in time, and the rest is history,” he told the company in an interview reflecting on his success.

The competition introduced him to his management team at Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment, who went on to share it with producers last September. Within just a few days, a bidding war broke out, and Selander landed a historic sale just a few days before the birth of his first child.

Keep in mind, Selander didn’t even win the competition. A $25,000 grand prize awaits the writer that does, and $2,500 goes to the runner-up. Both are determined by a professional judging panel.

As Selander’s success story illustrates, what really sets Script Pipeline apart from other screenwriting competitions is access to top executives, agents, managers, and talent, as well as a team that 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.

Slamdance Screenplay Competition

Entry Fee: $50-97

Deadlines: February 24 – 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), Anthony and Joe Russo (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. (This year, that festival was largely virtual.)

Also read: 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee in 2021

“From the earliest encouragement of the readers, to the unforgettable whirlwind ceremony, to the ongoing excitement, meetings, and future collaborations — Slamdance is more than a festival. It is a family. I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it,” said 2018 grand prize winner Jessica Sinyard.

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.

Sundance Screenwriters Lab

Entry Fee: $40

Deadlines: Applications open in April

15 submission-worthy screenwriting competitions screenplay contests screenwriting contests

2021 Sundance Lab Fellow Natasha Rothwell is a series regular on Insecure. Photo by Merie W. Wallace/HBO

This annual January retreat is a competition in the sense that only 12 applicants are selected to workshop their feature script with some of the best in the business. In 2020, creative advisors included 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. This year’s lab was held online, via Sundance Co//ab, a digital community platform. Hopes are high that the 2022 retreat will be held at the Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah.

“At this time of unprecedented change, we’re so fortunate to virtually gather this inclusive group of bold and vibrant filmmakers and advisors for a week of story meetings, craft workshops, and life-long creative relationships that have long  been a hallmark of our Labs,” said the Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program founding director, Michelle Satter, upon announcing the 2021 participants.

The lab is the beginning of the Sundance Institute’s longterm commitment to supporting the accepted filmmakers, which is why it’s one of the best opportunities to aim for, in our opinion. But fair warning, the bar is set very high. One of the 2021 participants, Natasha Rothwell, is a series regular and producer on HBO comedy Insecure.

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