In partnership with Creative Screenwriting and ScreenCraft, “First Draft” is a series on everything to do with screenwriting.
What are the best screenwriting contests, competitions, and fellowships to enter in 2018?
Screenwriting contests have become the ultimate way to penetrate those thick studio walls. Studio writers like Evan Daugherty have seen their dreams come true through the success of winning contests. In 2008, he was discovered through the Script Pipeline contest, attaining representation and eventually getting on the Black List that year for his script Shrapnel, which eventually became the film Killing Season. He parlayed that success and momentum to his $3.2 million spec script Snow White and the Huntsman. There have been many, many such success stories over the years. Dozens of aspiring screenwriters have signed with top agencies and management companies after winning contests.
However, since the 1990s, there has been a steady growth of screenwriting contests, competitions, and fellowships—to the point where there seems to be an endless stream of them. How do you find the ones that are worthwhile to enter?
When you’re considering your options, you should always ask yourself this simple question: What can I get out of this contest?
Are you more interested in the big cash awards or do you want more access to the film and television industry?
Cash is always nice, but it’s not the goal. If you want to get rich quick, screenwriting is definitely not the best route. Access to the film and television industry opens doors that you can take advantage of throughout your whole screenwriting career. Access can give you representation, multiple phone calls, and meetings. It’s the access you want—the ability to utilize relationships to push your screenwriting career forward.
Coverfly—the industry’s largest screenwriter talent-discovery platform, connecting emerging screenwriters with literary managers, agents, producers and development executives—has shared an amazing free downloadable screenplay competitions calendar with all of the 2018 deadlines and entry fees, organized by each month of the year.
Some of the standouts found within the calendar include:
If there’s a granddaddy of them all, this is clearly the one. It’s run by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—the Oscars—and is the most prestigious option available to you.
In the past three decades, the Academy Nicholl Fellowships has fostered dynamic writing talent in entertainment ranging from major blockbusters to acclaimed indie hits. Click Here for Nicholl Fellowship Success Stories.
Each year, the Academy Nicholl Fellowship awards up to five $35,000 fellowships to amateur screenwriters. Fellowship winners are invited to participate in awards week ceremonies and seminars and expected to complete at least one original feature film screenplay during the Fellowship year.
ScreenCraft’s screenwriting contests are dedicated to discovering talented screenwriters and connecting them with producers, agents, and managers. The genre contests uniquely tailor the prize package and jury for each contest—eliminating potential genre bias—by specializing in screenplay competitions by genre.
In addition to the genre contests, ScreenCraft offers its Fellowship Program.
In a recent interview with The Script Lab, Anna Klassen—the 2017 ScreenCraft Fellowship winner—explained that her experience participating in the ScreenCraft Fellowship directly led to her signing on with manager Bash Naran. “I met [Naran] through a mutual friend at Sundance Film Festival, and we instantly hit it off over our shared taste in movies and TV… A few months later, I won the 2017 ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship, and this generated enough heat for him to officially sign me. I really can’t stress enough how helpful placing in contests can be towards getting eyes on your script and gaining representation.”
One of Klassen’s screenplays—a biopic about the life of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling—made the 2017 Black List.
This competition has been going strong for over two decades. They pride themselves on their personal touch. All entrants receive free “Reader Comments” which are a brief, overall summary of their notes. As an added bonus, for Second Rounders (the top 10-15% in each category) and above, entrants receive further comments from 2-3 readers. They also send both postal mail and e-mail notifications to ensure everyone knows their placement in the competition.
Semifinalists and Finalists have the opportunity to meet with several agents, managers, and executives, and participate in the festival’s Script Reading Workshops where their scripts are read aloud and workshopped in a personalized setting. Semifinalists and Finalists’ loglines and contact information are also included in the annual Producer’s Book, distributed to all AFF panelists as well as over 400 agents, managers, producers, and other industry professionals.
In past years, the judges have included representatives from Oasis Media Group, Mosaic Media, ABC Studios, Paradigm Agency, Di Bonaventura Pictures, Kopelson Entertainment, Nickelodeon, Escape Artists at Sony, Washington Square Arts, Fourth Floor Productions, Haven Entertainment, Artisan, CAA, Brant Rose Agency, WME, DreamWorks, and Pixar among others.
This competition was established in the fall of 2003 by an alliance of Hollywood producers, agents, and development executives. It’s widely recognized within the industry as one of the most important sources for new screenwriting.
Past winning writers have signed with top literary representatives, optioned and sold their scripts, landed paid writing assignments, and many now have movies and television shows in production, on the air, and in theaters. This competition allows you to submit under certain genres as well.
Past winners have written films like the recent Maggie, The Judge, and have joined the writing staff of shows like The Walking Dead, Bates Hotel, Sleepy Hollow, etc.
WeScreenplay is a company that not only run excellent feature, short, and television contest—along with coverage—but also runs a specific Diverse Voices competition that strives to provide a contest that is purely focused on promoting and encouraging diverse voices and stories.
The contest encourages stories that are told from diverse perspectives—through the author and/or characters—that are often underrepresented in Hollywood today. The contest accepts Features, TV Pilots, Web Series, and Shorts.
Those are just a few of the many reputable contests that will be open for submissions in 2018. Which we did we miss? Which will you be submitting to? MM
This post originally appeared on the blog ScreenCraft. ScreenCraft is dedicated to helping screenwriters and filmmakers succeed through educational events, screenwriting competitions and the annual ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship program, connecting screenwriters with agents, managers and Hollywood producers. Follow ScreenCraft on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.