15 scriptwriting contests worth submitting in 2021

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In Hollywood, there’s an old adage that you’re only as good as your last movie, but what if you haven’t even produced one yet? It’s a conundrum that all undiscovered writers face, and there is no one answer. There are a variety of ways to get your foot in the door, however, and screenwriting contests are some of the most accessible. It’s always a gamble, and even winning one can’t guarantee a sale, but the right competition could serve as a major stepping stone to success in a notoriously tough industry. “Overall, screenwriting contests are a valuable entry point for people in an industry that was previously so heavily watched. It’s good that there are other avenues ”, producer Adi Shankar (Dredd, Castlevania) Recount Filmmaker. Winning isn’t everything either. Just making a finalist could increase the chances that a manager, agent, or producer will actually take a blind request seriously. In fact, the most common success stories touted by script competitions are participants getting representation or offering their specifications to production companies.

But in compiling this list, we didn’t just take participants’ word for it. Filmmaker asked managers, producers and executives which scriptwriting competitions they really pay attention to. Unfortunately, it is not a lot. But with money, constructive criticism, mentoring, networking opportunities, and other valuable prizes on offer, there are other reasons to participate, beyond the sale.

We’ve narrowed down a broad field to the following 15 submission-worthy screenwriting contests – in alphabetical order – that writers should consider entering in 2021.

The Nicholl Academy Camaraderie

Registration fees: $ 48 to $ 88

Deadlines: March 3 – May 3

Among industry professionals we surveyed, this is the most frequently cited competition as the one they watch.

This is not surprising, given that it is hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, with the semi-final being judged by Academy members from across the spectrum of the film industry. The scripts of the finalists are judged by the Nicholl Committee of the Academy, which will award up to five scholarships of $ 35,000 to amateur screenwriters.

The cash award is intended to give fellows a full year to focus exclusively on developing at least one feature film script, with the help of one-on-one mentoring from Academy members. Other invaluable benefits include invitations to awards ceremonies and seminars.

From the inception of the program in 1986 until 2020, 181 scholarships totaling $ 4.75 million have been awarded. Previous winners have included Destin Daniel Cretton (Short term 12, Just mercy), Oscar nominee Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovitch) and Ehren Kruger (Arlington Road, The ring).

One official told us that she particularly appreciates the Nicholl Fellows because of the “exceptionally rigorous assessment process in place.” Add that to the prestige of the Academy in Hollywood, and it’s a safe bet that even if your script doesn’t make it past the semi-finals, there’s a very good chance other Guardians in the industry will still be interested. to read it.

Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competition

Registration fees: $ 25 to $ 90

Deadlines: June 4 – November 12

James Ponsoldt, Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competition Mentor

Three winners in the feature film category will receive $ 500, but the real prizes here are golden networking and mentoring opportunities.

Not only will these lucky screenwriters get an unlimited access badge to mingle with industry professionals at the film festival in a booming production facility, but they’ll also attend a two-day all-expenses-paid retreat to work. their scripts with Hollywood veterans. Previous mentors have included writer-director James Ponsoldt, screenwriter Michael Lucker (Vampire in Brooklyn) and producer Kathryn Dean (Winter bone, Against all odds).

Ponsoldt, the director of critically acclaimed independent dramas The spectacular now, Crushed and The end of the tour, won the first Atlanta Film Festival screenplay competition in 2008.

“As a born and raised Georgian, the Atlanta Film Festival – and the Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competition – holds a place close to my heart,” said Ponsoldt. Filmmaker. “The vibe is fun, uplifting, focused on creativity in the truest sense of the word, and generally a stimulating atmosphere driven more by art than business. Also: great people, the best food, and it’s always like a party! The Atlanta Film Society is also offering winners a travel allowance and three nights’ accommodation for the event. Due to the pandemic, however, much of the 2021 festival takes place online, with drive-in screenings and limited-capacity indoor screenings.

Fingers crossed that the virus is not a problem in 2022. But Brian Grady, the festival’s script programmer, said Filmmaker that there was a silver lining in the writing retreat that was being held virtually. He was able to match the winners with mentors – all former Nicholl Fellows – who were particularly interested in the screenplays, due to their personal taste, style or background.

“What I was really trying to achieve is real friendship,” he said. “Trying to match people with mentors who I think would be a great fit for them. “

Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition

Registration fees: $ 45 to $ 70

Deadlines: March 26 – May 21

Shane Black (Deadly weapon), Laurent Kasdan (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back), Christopher McQuarrie (The usual suspects), and Everyone loves Raymond Creator Philip Rosenthal sits on the advisory board, lending even more credibility to this massive networking event that has long been known as a festival of writers.

Cash prizes of $ 5,000 are awarded to the winners of the drama and comedy categories, while the winners of the horror and sci-fi categories receive $ 2,500, and the festival reimburses round-trip airfare and hotels. these winners in Austin.

Win or lose, however, it’s really about making the pilgrimage to one of America’s coolest cities to connect with industry players in a famous and relaxed environment. Nicole Perlman (guardians of the galaxy, Captain marvel) hailed the event as an “unpretentious, professional-level screenwriters conference where writers from all over the world come to learn from other writers.”

“One of my favorite things about Austin is that unlike other world-class film festivals where filmmakers are separated from audiences by velvet cords, AFF encourages their attendees and speakers to mingle and get to know each other, ”she wrote in a letter. featured on AFF website. “The festival’s social gatherings have allowed me to meet so many writers who have become close friends, mentees and mentors.

In addition, all participants receive detailed and constructive feedback on their scripts. Some competitions bypass this entirely or charge extra, so it’s an affordable opportunity to at least find out what works and what doesn’t in your current draft.

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