September is a huge month for screenwriting competitions, with some of the heaviest hitters — like the Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competition and Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest — offering you a chance to finally transform your years of caffeinated typing into the career you fantasize about.
We’re offering the following list of some of the biggest, most prestigious, and most potentially transformative contests to give you the motivation to start that mad dash to the finish line (or better yet, a confident, well-deserved stroll to the finish line).
Screenwriting competitions care less than you might expect about whether you bold your scene headers. But they care a lot about your voice, character development, and yes, grammar. (And be sure to spell your characters’ names the same way — every time.) As you make your last pass — hopefully not at 11:59 p.m. on the night of the final deadline) you might want to consult our recent survey of What Screenwriting Competitions Want.
And now, here are 1o you might want to enter in September, along with how much they cost, what they offer competitors, and whether you can still apply later if you miss their deadlines. They’re arranged from the soonest September deadlines to the latest. And please check their Film Freeway pages or the competition websites for further details on any discounts, additional prizes, and more.
Opening Date: Sept. 1
Costs: Short film, $30; feature $50.
Don’t panic — Sept. 1 is the opening date, not the final deadline. That’s not until April 4, 2022. Scriptapalooza awards over $50,000 in cash and software prizes, and the first place winner gets $10,000 in cash. The competition also promises to promote, pitch and support not just winners but semifinalists (and anyone placing higher) for a year — to producers, managers and agents. “No other screenplay competition in the world does that,” its website notes. Besides the contest itself, Scriptapalooza gives very good, detailed, constructive and pull-no-punches feedback. It costs $120 for screenplays and $85 for shorts, but in my opinion it’s worth it, especially if you’re submitting a particular script for the first time. (I got some Scriptapalooza feedback on a script three years ago that was quite tough — but also well-reasoned, fair and correct. I rewrote almost the whole thing and got much more positive feedback on subsequent drafts from other competitions.) If you wait until the final deadline in April, the cost goes up to $70 for screenplays and $50 for shorts. (Or more, with feedback.)
Extended Deadline: Sept. 3
Costs: Short film, $55; Stage play, $65, TV spec script, $65; Feature, $65.
Hurry. That Sept. 3 deadline is the real, final deadline. The good news is that you won’t have to wait for months to see how you fared, because the date of the online awards is also close: Oct. 10. STORYLINE is a spinoff of Los Angeles’ DaVinci International Film Festival. It’s newer than most of the other festivals on the list, and there are no huge cash prizes: you’ll be competing for a custom glass trophy, a prize package that includes software and services, and eligibility to have your film optioned or developed with production partners.
Early Bird Deadline: Sept. 12
Costs: Short film $45, pilot $55, Feature $60.
Details: BlueCat was founded in 1998 by Gordy Hoffman, whose film Love Liza, starring his late brother, Philip Seymour Hoffman, won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival. He has taught screenwriting at both USC and UCLA, and led workshops all over the world. BlueCat boasts big prizes, including $5,000 for the Grand Prize winner. If you miss the Early Bird Deadline, there are three more deadlines each month until December, with prices going up $5 each month. Because great writing is all about rewriting, BlueCat lets you resubmit your work until Feb. 21, 2022, adjusting the script based on the feedback included in your entry fee. Resubmissions cost $35 for shorts, $45 for pilots, and $50 for features. There are more details on the website, which also includes lots of good screenwriting resources.
Pre-Register: Sept. 15
Costs: Screenwriting or TV writing competition, $25
You’re playing the long game with this one, in every sense. First, Sept. 15 is the date to pre-register — the final deadline is way off in the future, on May 31, 2022. But also, Script Pipeline is more interested in long-term career development than the immediate gratification of a win. It boasts that more than $8 million in screenplays and pilots have been sold by Script Pipeline writers and that many scripts produced since it started in 1999. It eschews a one-and-done approach in favor of long-term promotion of writers, helping them land representation and opportunities. Among recent success stories is Crosby Selander, whose finalist screenplay Bring Me Back was sold last year to Legendary for seven figures. Prizes include $25,000 each for the Screenwriting and TV Writing winners, $2,500 each for Screenwriting and TV Writing runners-up, and introductions to managers, producers, agents, directors, and others. Bear in mind that while you have lots of time to get your script in shape, costs go up to $70 if you wait until May 31 to submit.
Regular Deadline: Sept. 15
Costs: Screenplays or TV pilots, $55
No, we didn’t accidentally list Script Pipeline twice. The First Look Project is different from the original Script Pipeline, according to the contest, in that “entries for First Look are judged equally on writing ability and commercial potential, as well as the originality of the concept and a strong understanding of genre and marketplace trends.” The First Look Project aims to connect winners with production and management companies, and also offers prizes: $2,500 to the winner of each four feature genre categories (Action/Sci-Fi, Comedy, Drama, Horror/Thriller), as well as $2,500 each to the hour and half-hour pilot winners. If you miss the Sept. 15 deadline, you can still hit the Oct. 8 Late Deadline, when the cost goes up to $60, or Oct. 30 Extended Deadline, when it goes up to $65. Aim for September so you can spend October designing the perfect Halloween costume.
Continue reading for more Screenwriting Competitions to Enter in September.