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Top tips when entering into a screenwriting contest

Screenwriting contests are a great way to get your work noticed and are excellent tools to improve your screenwriting ability. Here we discuss a few tips on how to get the best out of each screenwriting contest submission.

What is a screenwriting contest?

Screenwriting contests are a great way to get your script and screenwriting talent noticed.

A screenwriting contest gives you the chance to have your script read by executives, agents, and managers – it will only really be noticed by them if you come in the top echelon of writers in a high profile film festival or contest.

The most you get from winning a lot of the screenwriting contests is a prize and a winners laurel, so you want to scope out the most important screenwriting festivals that have the best chance of boosting your screenwriting profile and your script being seen by the right people, if not it can become quite expensive.

Knowing as much as you can about screenwriting contests will allow you to muster up the best plan to attack these contests strategically.

Why should I submit to a screenwriting contest?

Screenwriting contestSubmitting your work to a screenwriting contest is an integral part of your filmmaking career. You are probably scratching your head asking, why? The reason is to stop you from limiting your filmmaking career.

By entering into a screenwriting contest it opens up different avenues and potential conversations you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t have entered the competition. It gets your script seen and read by important figures in the film industry – and that’s even if you didn’t win the contest.

If you do win a screenwriting contest it allows the opportunities to find you, and potentially offer you an option on your script or the production company may have a development deal they are willing to offer up to you.

There are so many opportunities that come out of screenwriting contests even if you don’t win them, we will go through these in more detail and why you should map out what you want to achieve from your submission.

Enough of this waffling lets get into the good stuff!

Top tips when entering into a screenwriting contest

Here we analyse and breakdown the top tips for entering into a screenwriting contest to help you get more out of the screenwriting contest that you enter, it’s actually not all about winning them!

Here are the “Top tips when entering into a screenwriting contest”.

Read the rules in detail

antique-book-hand-knowledge-207681 (1)We know this may seem simple, but a lot of the time screenwriters will scan over the rules and submit their work straightaway. Then a few months time wondering why their masterpiece fell at the first hurdle as they worked on rewrites and took advice from seasoned professionals, only to fail.

It then turns out they submitted a 31-page script and the rules state 30 pages max, trust us it happens a lot of the time – then it leaves the screenwriter doubting their ability. One mistake will lead you to be rejected on the spot without the judges even reading the first letter, let alone the first page.

What do you want from the screenwriting contest?

Set expectations from the start for yourself. Are you looking to win and that’s it? Or are you looking to rank and get your material seen?

There can be a lot of negativity and disappointment when you don’t win a contest but it doesn’t have to be that way, especially if you are just starting out. Before you apply have a think about what else you are looking to get out of the contest?

  • Exposure to key decision-makers?
  • Experienced feedback from industry leaders?
  • Detailed feedback on your script from experienced screenwriters?

By doing this it will help you grow and improve as a screenwriter as well as entering into competitions with more than just winning in the back of your mind, you never know they may see your script and think wow, this person would suit project “x” and offer you a development contract.

Research the screenwriting contest

Research the screenwriting contestResearch the contest, especially if it’s a paid contest. Researching the contest allows you to understand more around the requirements and what they are looking for as well as the process and the prizes.

All these factors are important to note as you want to enter your script into a relevant contest to allow you to have the best chance to win but also to be noticed by the judging panel.

This due diligence is also needed when entering new competitions, most are legit but you’ll get a few screenwriting contests that pop up and cost a fortune to enter but are ultimately a scam – this is very rare but please be vigilant. Just be aware and read into the rules and regulations to understand what you are signing up for.

READ MORE: 7 screenwriting tips for beginners

Check the small print!

It comes hand in hand with the last point, but make sure you read the small print – you should be fine with a reputable screenwriting contest but to read through the rules, small print and the fine print for the parent site or for any third-party stakeholders.

Some add additional usage rights for your script and name if you win – make sure you are comfortable with these. It’s usually just for marketing purposes that you’ve won the contest and is highly beneficial to you, but make sure your comfortable with these before entering – you don’t want any surprises later on.

Rewrites

RewritesMake sure you time your submissions correctly and make enough spare time to enable you to get a couple of good quality rewrites in there. Rushing a screenwriting submission is a surefire way to fail at the first hurdle.

Give yourself time to understand the contest and what they are looking for so you have enough time to tweak a few scenes or aspects of your script to fit in with the rules and requirements.

Proofread your script

I know you don’t need reminding but one proofread is not enough. Ask a friend a colleague anyone else to proofread just for grammatical reassurance.

You will find they will pick up grammatical errors that slip your mind as you have read the script over and over that you need some fresh eyes.

Even when you go to read it a second or third time, maybe give yourself a couple of hours break and go into it with a completely blank slate. You’ll pick up mistakes and areas to expand that you wouldn’t have if you read it back to back.

Write your logline way ahead of time

You want to have a logline written way before you’ve even started the script. The logline is integral to the script, a lot of production assistants use it to determine whether they will read your script or not so having one in place that captivates is essential.

It also helps you when creating your film treatment. Having these both in place will help you write a gripping story and alleviates writer’s block – as you have an arc to your story and reference points to revert back to when you hit a roadblock.

It helps you follow a creative direction for your story, adding depth to the individual scenes, so by having a film treatment in place you have a solid foundation.

All things loglines: 

Nail your film treatment

Having an in-depth film treatment of your project is integral, not all film festivals ask for these with your submission – but most will. Make sure it has a clear logline, a character breakdown that’s clear and concise, and a synopsis that shows the stories arc that keeps the reader on the edge of their seats wanting more.

Download your FREE character development sheet here

READ MORE: What is a film treatment and how do I create one?


Please remember not to get too disheartened if the result of the contest doesn’t go to plan, use it to make changes and improve. You will get there it just takes time and perseverance, one day you’ll achieve ridiculous success and win multiple contests, be patient.

Here’s some additional reading to help you create a captivating logline, treatment and script!

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