15 screenwriting contests worth submitting in 2020


Evan Daugherty adapted White as snow, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Grave robber, and He-man for the big screen, but he didn’t have his chance working in Hollywood. He was living in Dallas when he uploaded a new spec script, Shrapnel, in the 2008 Script Pipeline Screenwriting Contest, and won.

“I decided to fly to LA for the ceremony. I had no expectation of winning, ”he told Script Pipeline. “I was just using it as an excuse to visit friends in LA. So when I was announced as one of the Grand Prix winners it was a real shock. “

This victory helped him land a manager, an agent and his first job – writing a draft for Warner Bros. ‘ Masters of the Universe movie. Shrapnel became Robert De Niro-John Travolta’s film Season that kills. And he also sold Snow White and the Huntsman, a screenplay he wrote in sophomore at NYU, for $ 3.25 million.

We can’t promise that each of our 15 worthy screenwriting contests in 2020 will change your life as drastically as Script Pipeline changed Daugherty’s. But screenplay contests can be a great resource for writers, offering valuable commentary, industry connections, mentorship, and even monetary prizes.

Of course, there are plenty of contests out there, and they all cost a lot of money to enter. Thus, in the interest of saving screenwriters time and money, while simultaneously supporting competitions of proven value, Filmmaker sorted dozens of them.

Before we share the top 15, in alphabetical order, let’s explain why writers would even want to bet $ 40 to $ 100, per contest, just for the chance to compete against thousands of other specific scripts.

1. Constructive criticism. This is the most fundamental benefit that competitions can offer screenwriters. Praise and criticism are essential for growth in this profession. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of one project is essential for improving the next.

2. Cash. Without an agent, this can be the best way to capitalize on the hard work. Prices can range from a few hundred dollars to $ 35,000.

3. Connections. Relationships are rife, but most people don’t have the luxury of being born into the movie world, or even chatting with assistants at happy hours in Hollywood. Fortunately, the best screenplay contests are either judged by, or closely aligned with, industry professionals. Impressing a literary director, development officer or manager – or even one of their assistants – could be a game-changer.

4. Validation. If you already have industry contacts, being successful in a screenplay competition will make them more likely to read your project. Shout out for any honor on social media, then boast about the victory in every email request in the future.

Most contests also host TV spec scripts and even short film scripts, but this article focuses on feature film scripts.

And so, with all that said, here are 15 screenwriting contests that are worth your time and money in 2020.

The Nicholl Academy scholarship

Admission fees: $ 48- $ 88 2020 Time limit : March 6 – May 1

This Coverfly qualifying competition offers prestige and a lot of money. Each year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences awards up to five Nicholl scholarships of $ 35,000 to amateur screenwriters, who are expected to complete an original feature film screenplay. Payments are made quarterly and are subject to satisfactory progress of the grantee’s work, as judged by the Nicholl Academy Scholarship Committee. From the inception of the program in 1986 until 2019, $ 4.58 million was awarded to 176 writers.

Along with getting paid to do what they love, screenwriters are invited to attend awards ceremonies and seminars in November, which means networking opportunities with the biggest names in cinema.

More than a dozen of these scripts have gone into production. Elizabeth Chomko’s 2015 winner What they had starring Hilary Swank, and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018. Writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton’s indie drama in 2013, Short term 12, was nurtured during his 2010 scholarship.

Although this contest is sponsored by the organization behind the Oscars, it is very accessible. Anyone who has made less than $ 25,000 from screenwriting in their lifetime can enter a screenplay that just needs to be original. No adaptation allowed. Good luck.

Destin Daniel Cretton, 2010 Nicholl Academy scholar, on the set of his 2019 drama, Just mercy, with star Michael B. Jordan. Photo by Jake Giles Netter, courtesy of Warner Bros.

Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition

Admission fees: $ 45 to $ 70 2020 Time limit : March 27 – June 1

While this annual October festival screens many films, its roots lie in the writing process. The Austin Film Festival & Conference, launched in 1993, was the first of its kind to bring together professional and amateur screenwriters to celebrate the craft, thereby fostering careers by showcasing literary talent to agents and producers.

Cash prizes of $ 5,000 are awarded to the winners of the drama and comedy categories, while the winners of the horror and science fiction categories receive $ 2,500. All entrants are guaranteed to receive written feedback, and those who reach the second round (the top 20% of total entries) receive even more detailed comments from readers. These “second rounders” also get $ 50 off a festival badge, giving them access to numerous networking and learning opportunities, including exclusive panels, such as having lunch with an industry veteran or attending an event. writers simulation room.

“The Austin Film Festival is true to its word – it’s the festival of writers,” said Christopher Corte, 2019 sci-fi feature screenplay winner, in a testimonial posted on the festival’s website. . “AFF spends so much time and resources that the focus remains on the writer. It is this attention that led me to sign with my managers at Lit Entertainment. Austin is the spotlight that writers need.

This Coverfly Qualifying Screenplay Contest is best suited for those looking to attend the festival, win or lose, as the experience is where writers will discover the true value of the contest.

The AFF website also quotes X-Files creator Chris Carter describing it as “one of the best film festivals you’ve ever been to”.

BlueCat Scenario Competition

Admission fees: $ 50 to $ 80 2020 Time limit : June 30 – December 15

Founded by screenwriter Gordy Hoffman, brother of the late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, this screenwriting competition has nurtured talent since 1998, a few years before the founder won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival.

Above all, BlueCat is a great opportunity for amateur writers to get feedback on their projects. All entrants are guaranteed a written analysis and are eligible for the grand prize of $ 10,000, as well as a prize of $ 5,000 for the scenario winner. Four feature film finalists also receive $ 1,000 each, and three entrants will win $ 250 each for top titles. Writers residing outside of the United States are eligible to win the Fellini Prize, which will earn the winner $ 2,500.

Regarding industry access, BlueCat sends winning and finalist loglines to literary representatives. Directly after being named a finalist in 2012, Ashleigh Powell sold her submission Somacell at Warner Bros., and more recently wrote The Nutcracker and the Four Realms for Disney.

Years before Ana Lily Amirpour became a sought-after writer-director known for the movies A girl comes home alone at night and The bad lot, she just dreamed of being a professional filmmaker. Winning the BlueCat Grand Prize in 2007 was the first stepping stone in a career that continues to heat up.

“The second script I wrote, I entered the BlueCat screenwriting contest and honestly I had no expectations whatsoever,” she said in a BlueCat interview in 2012. “And then when I won, it was all of a sudden that everything became really real… It was the first thing that made me believe that it could happen. And it happened. “

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