Screenwriting is an art form that can take decades to perfect. There’s no better way to hone your skills than to keep writing and rewriting. Participating in screenwriting competitions is a rite of passage for any up-and-coming screenwriter. They’re an excellent way to understand where you stand as a writer since your work will be evaluated by accomplished screenwriters. If you make it through, there are cash prizes to be won and pitch meetings with executives waiting to happen. This drastically increases the chances of a studio picking your script and adapting it into a movie or pilot.
Some of these competitions offer fellowships where you will be mentored by some of the most experienced members of the Hollywood fraternity. Keeping that in mind, here’s a list of screenwriting competitions that you might want to enroll yourselves in.
1. Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting
Tied in with the Academy, the Nicholl fellowship is one of Hollywood’s oldest and most prestigious competitions. Up to 5 writers are selected every year to receive the fellowship worth $35,000. Winners receive individualised Academy member mentorship. However, they must complete at least one original feature film screenplay during their Fellowship year.
HOW TO APPLY
To be eligible for the meritorious fellowship, writers are expected to submit a feature film screenplay (70-160 pages) and pay either an early entry fee of $48 or a regular deadline fee of $88 depending on the deadlines mentioned on the website. For guidelines around eligibility and other details, visit here.
Entries to the 2022 contest are now closed. Entrants will be notified via email if they’ve advanced to the Quarterfinals in early August. Semifinalist notifications are emailed in early September.
2. Austin Screenplay Competition
The Austin Screenplay & Teleplay Competition has served as a platform for budding screenwriters to showcase their talent. To maintain a level playing field, this competition is only open to those writers who do not earn a living writing for film or television.
Under Screenplay & Teleplay Competition, feature screenplays are required to be 90-120 pages in length while teleplays need to be 45-70 pages. Unlike the Finish Line competition, no revisions are allowed once an entry has been submitted. The prize money varies across genres, with Drama paying the highest at $5000. Teleplay competition victors get $1000, whereas finalists across all categories receive complimentary badges to attend the prestigious Austin Film Festival and Conference. You can also have your script read by an additional judge at an extra cost of $15.
The last deadline was Feature Screenplay ($80) and Short Screenplay & Teleplay ($65) ended June 1, 2022. All your FAQs regarding the contests are answered here.
3. HBO Access Writing Fellowship
Recently renamed WarnerMedia Access Writers Program, this platform aims to provide guidance to creative minds from different backgrounds by connecting them with industry leaders. They usually happen once every two years.
HOW TO APPLY
Applications for this year are currently closed. The next call for submissions will be announced at a later date. The 2021-22 class was announced in July 2021, with 21 participants selected through a rigorous interview and evaluation process. Unlike some of the other competitions on this list, they do accept entries from writers who’ve previously worked on a TV show. The caveat is that they cannot have worked for more than one season.
4. Sundance Lab
This is the official contest of the Sundance Film Festival, touted to be the biggest of its kind. It’s not a screenwriting competition per se, rather an incubator course that’s catapulted multiple creators to fame. Some of the films that were made under the support of the Feature Film Program are Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox, Taika Waititi’s Boy, and Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.
The fellowships or grants that come under the Feature Film Program (FFP) are:
- Screenwriting Lab: A 5-day writer’s workshop, currently slated for January 2023. There is no entry fee.
- Screenwriters Intensive Program: The program supports 10-12 writers or writer/directors from underrepresented communities who are developing a fiction feature screenplay. Beyond the application fee, there is no fee to participate in the Screenwriters Intensive.
- Sundance Institute Comedy Fellowship: Hopes to provide a stage for the next generation of comedic voices to voice out their opinions. It comes with an opportunity to participate in the Screenwriters Lab and includes customized mentorship from the FFP team.
5. Titan Screenwriting Contest
An annual screenwriting competition by Industrial Scripts, the Titan Screenwriting contest was launched in 2021. This year’s edition of the contest will be judged by Hollywood heavyweights — Patrick Crowley (Jurassic World franchise, Bourne franch
Three final winners will be picked from among these 10, getting cash prizes of $1000, $2000 and $5000 respectively. Besides cash rewards, exposure, connections, winners get 12 months of Personal Daily Script Marketing, script coaching support from Industrial Scripts and several other benefits.
HOW TO APPLY:
Visit here for details on how to enter this year’s contest. The final deadline to enter the contest is on June 30, 2022. Quarter finalists will be announced Aug 18, 2022; semi-finalists on Sep 18, 2022; finalists/category winners on October 18, 2022 and grand finale winners on October 31, 2022.
6. Save the Cat! Screenplay challenge
Save the Cat! screenplay challenge now accepts both feature films plus 60-minute and 30-minute TV pilots. The winner gets an all-expense paid 3-day trip to LA and you get to pitch your script to a production company. The perks also include a one-year subscription to the latest version of Save the Cat! software and a listing in INKTIP magazine.
The top 5 finalists also win the subscription to the proprietary software and get to interact with one of the judges. All entries will be read and entrants will receive detailed analysis in return.
HOW TO APPLY
Entries for this year are now closed. Results for this year’s contest will be announced on August 31, 2022 and the event will take place on August 26-28, 2022.
7. BlueCat Screenplay competition
Besides episodic pilots and features, BlueCat screenplay competition also accepts short film scripts. Each entry can be resubmitted twice. The page count limit for the different events are:
- Feature screenplays: 65-125 pages
- Pilot scripts: 20-75 pages
- Short screenplays: 1-29 pages
All entries are read and will receive a written analysis as part of the entry fee. The grand prize is a whopping $5000, while the winners in Feature Screenplay, Pilot, and Short Script categories receive $2000. For writers residing outside the States, a special Fellini Award was instituted, the winner of which will receive $1000.
HOW TO APPLY
Now in its 24th year, BlueCat Screenplay Competition is currently accepting submissions for its 2022 competition. For more details, visit here.
8. Cinestory Foundation Fellowship
With an excellent track record, The Cinestory Foundation Fellowship has launched the careers of a number of writers. Popular companies like Paradigm, Energy Entertainment, and the Lisa Callamaro agency seek out the services of the winners. Winners get a cash prize of $10,000 and a year-long fellowship program where they’ll be paired with a Hollywood professional. They’re also entitled to three 90-minute one-on-one sessions with agents, managers, producers, and development executives.
HOW TO APPLY
Deadline for the 2022 Feature Retreat & Fellowship Contest closed on May 15, 2022. But submissions to their 2023 TV Retreat & Fellowship Contest are open. There’s an early bird submission fee of $50 until June 26, 2023.
One of the most popular screenwriting contests out there, Scriptapalooza Fellowship accepts feature film and short film scripts across multiple genres — action, comedy, drama, sci-fi, thriller. The winner gets $10,000 besides exclusive access to more than 150 producers through Scriptapalooza’s extensive network and 1-year membership to the International Screenwriters’ Association. The judges also pick winners from each genre, each of who is awarded $500.
But, it isn’t just the winners who enjoy all the benefits. The scripts of all semi-finalists too are promoted among Scriptapalooza’s tightly-knit community of producers, managers, and agents. You can get extra feedback on your script at an additional cost of $120.
HOW TO APPLY
They are currently accepting screenplays and pilots for the 2022 Scriptapalooza Fellowship at $45 entry fee. Early deadline for submission is December 5, 2022. Find all the details here.
10. PAGE International Screenwriting Awards
The PAGE Screenwriting Awards were instituted with the aim of introducing the up-and-coming talent to Hollywood executives. With a proven track record, this competition has been the gateway to success for multiple up-and-coming screenwriters like Michael Kogge and Brooke Roberts. This competition only accepts original screenplays of 80-120 pages and teleplays of 30-75 pages. Adaptations of any kind are not eligible and editing is not allowed once a script has been submitted.
Winners across the ten different genre categories win over $50,000 in cash and prizes. In addition, their work will also be publicized with the help of their co-sponsors.
HOW TO APPLY
Submissions were accepted between January-April this year and the results are likely to be announced by July 15, 2021. PAGE Awards will be accepting submissions for next year in December. Bookmark this link to stay abreast of the latest deadlines.
11. Finish Line Script Competition
This one-of-a-kind screenwriting competition allows you to rework your script based on the notes you receive. The grand prize is $1500 in cash, an opportunity to interact with market leaders, a free consultation from experts, and a brand new copy of Final Draft. The runner-up and second runner-up are awarded $500 and $250 respectively.
HOW TO APPLY
- Early bird deadline: February 16, 2022 – $35 entry fee
- Regular deadline: April 13, 2022 – $40 entry fee
- Latecomers deadline: June 22, 2022 – $40 entry fee
It’ll cost you $70 more to get comprehensive feedback from the judges. This will also include free resubmission of drafts.
12. Final Draft Big Break Contest
This is the official contest of the well-known screenwriting software, Final Draft. The winners of the Final Draft Big Break Contest have gone on to strike deals with several reputed production companies like Paramount Studios and 3PAS Studios. Full-length screenplays should be approximately 80-120 pages, teleplays around 40-70 pages. Remember not to include your personal information in any part of the script since all the necessary details are collected upon submission of entries.
HOW TO APPLY
Entries for this year are now open.
- Regular deadline: June 21, 2022: $59 entry fee
- Extended deadline: July 12, 2022: $69
- Last Chance: August 2, 2022 – $79
13. Script Pipeline
Script Pipeline has helped uncover and develop writers for film and television since 1999. Some of the talents that found their start from Script Pipeline were Tripper Clancy, writer of Stuber and Evan Daugherty turned his winning script into a movie starring Robert de Niro and John Travolta. The winner of the Screenwriting competition receives a whopping $25,000 and access to a dozen production companies, agencies, and managers. Judging takes into consideration the overall quality of the script along with the originality of the concept and market viability.
HOW TO APPLY
Their upcoming contest opens August 15, 2022. Multiple entries are allowed but will require a separate payment. Writers can apply for a written analysis at an additional cost. For details, visit here.
14. ScreenCraft Screenplay competition
ScreenCraft‘s feature writing competition offers a wide array of genres to choose from. The Grand Prize winner is drafted to the ScreenCraft Writer Development Program and gets a cool $1000 in cash prize. In addition, their work is circulated among writers, producers, development executives, and managers. Meanwhile, feature winners are awarded a $500 cash prize and a lifetime subscription to Arc Studio Pro.
HOW TO APPLY
The guidelines and the key deadlines may vary across competitions, so go through the rules before you apply. Some of the competitions that are open right now:
- Action and Adventure Screenplay Competition – Final deadline – June 30, 2022
- Animation Screenplay Competition – Regular Deadline – June 30, 2022
- Drama Screenplay Competition – early Deadline – June 30, 2022
- Film Fund – Final Deadline – June 30, 2022
- Horror Screenplay Competition opens August 1, 2022
- Stage Play Writing Competition opens July 31, 2022
For details across contests, visit here.
15. Tracking Board LaunchPad
As the name suggests, this esteemed competition serves to provide a launching pad for the careers of upcoming writers.They run contests in 3 categories: Television plots, feature films and prose writing. Your work can potentially be recognized by a large group of managers, producers, and executives. To add to that, the top 25 winners are announced on the Tracking Board website and to thousands of industry folk via press releases.
HOW TO APPLY
The Feature film script writing and TV pilot script writing will open soon for the next season. are currently closed. Prose writing is now open for submissions. Follow this space for further updates.
16. Page Turner Awards
The UK-based scriptwriting competition like others on this list could help you get one step closer towards pitching your script to a Hollywood executive. In addition to a prize fund valued over $10k, winners stand a chance to secure a sponsored writing internship. The different award categories are:
- Writing Award – for unpublished, completed manuscripts
- Young Writer Award – for writers between the ages of 18 and 25
- Writing Mentorship Award – for uncompleted manuscripts
- Screenplay Award – for scriptwriters with a completed screenplay
HOW TO APPLY
In what was their inaugural year, the 2020 Page Turner Awards garnered a lot of interest with at least three writers winning a literary agency presentation. In addition, five authors received a writing mentorship. The 2022 Page Turner Awards are now open across categories, deadline ends June 5, 2022.
Adapted Screenplay Competition
In the running for 7 years now, this contest accepts adapted feature film screenplays, TV scripts and shorts, in all genres.
Feature screenplays should be between 85 – 120 pages, television pilot scripts 22 – 60 pages and shorts between 5 – 25 pages. For more information on the eligibility, requirements and awards, visit here.
The Black List
This is not a screenwriting contest but a massively resourceful hub for all aspiring screenwriters. You can upload your spec script here and get evaluated by professional readers and noticed by industry members.
Every year in December, The Black List releases a list of the most voted spec screenplays of that year. These are voted by film industry executives.
Now in the running for 16 years, The Black List’s annual lists include Oscar-winning movies like The King’s Speech, Juno and Argo.
So there you have it! These are some of the best screenwriting competitions across the globe. Be sure to read all the rules and guidelines before submitting your script. The page count may vary from one to another, but they all need to be original. Most competitions insist that your work is in a 12-point courier font and submitted in a PDF format. Remember that the judges are looking for your distinct voice to come through when they read your work. This is a life-changing opportunity, so make sure you put it to good use.